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FWIW Virginia: Are Virginia candidates “using Instagram to meet young voters where they’re at?”

Virginia Dems ahead of Republicans on Instagram; Dem Chris Hurst has the largest following

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From FWIW Virginia:

Instagram has over 100 million users in the United States, almost half of whom are aged 18-34. The social media platform is an increasingly important tool for reaching young voters, who are quickly becoming an important part of Virginia Democrats’ coalition. Youth turnout (18-29) in Virginia doubled from 2009 to 2017, from 17% in 2009 to 34% in 2017… And young voters in Virginia overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2017, with 69% of young voters casting a ballot for Ralph Northam.

Are candidates using Instagram to meet young voters where they’re at? Is there a difference in how Democrats and Republicans use the platform? We take a look in this week’s edition of FWIW Virginia. But first…

2019 by the numbers

Here’s how Facebook spending by Republican and Democratic party committees and candidates in the most competitive districts compares since the primary election.

Here are the five biggest Facebook spenders in Virginia from July 16-22:

…and here’s some of the creative from the top Facebook spenders in Virginia this week. Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy Virginia ran a series of call to action ads that sent users to a pre-generated advocacy form that let them send their State Senator a message in support of a Paid Family Leave bill. The advocacy campaign not only allowed their organization to put pressure on State Senators to support Paid Family Leave, but also let the organization collect emails, phone numbers, and email/SMS opt-ins.


Days until the general election: 103

Deep Dive: 📸Add me on Insta?📸
   
This week, we looked at the Instagram followings of the Democratic and Republican campaigns in the 29 competitive House of Delegates and State Senate races we’re following. Of the 58 campaigns, just 35 had Instagram accounts, with 21,880 followers across all of their accounts.
As expected, Democratic campaigns are doing a much better job than Republicans at engaging supporters on Instagram. 19 of 29 Democratic campaigns maintain an Instagram account, with 14,642 followers in total. On average, Democratic Instagram accounts have 771 followers, much higher than the average Republican following.
The Republicans have a roughly similar number of Instagram accounts as Democrats, but their accounts have a much smaller following. Their 16 accounts have just 7,238 followers, for an average of 452 followers.
Given Instagram’s younger user base relative to other social media platforms, it makes sense that Democrats tend to have larger Instagram followings than their Republican competitors. However, good content and a bit of effort can make all the difference for candidates from both parties.Democrat Chris Hurst has the largest following of any campaign we’re watching, with over 4,200 followers – more than 2x any other campaign! His campaign posts a mix of political and personal content, frequently highlighting Hurst’s quirky, Instagram-appropriate sense of humor.

Many of the Republican accounts we looked at didn’t have many followers, but a handful of Republicans proved that a combination of good content and effort can still build a Republican following on Instagram. His campaign account posts on a weekly basis and tends to highlight his campaign’s organizing efforts.
Across the board, both parties have room to grow their engagement on Instagram. Democrats still have plenty of campaigns without Instagram accounts, even though their campaigns should be active on the platform to engage their coalition’s growing youth voting bloc. Meanwhile, Republicans could benefit from expanding outside their traditionally older, whiter base by at least trying to engage young voters on Instagram, especially in many of the rapidly-changing districts all throughout Virginia… but we’re not complaining if they can’t be bothered.P.S. While we’re at it, don’t forget to follow our Instagram account (@acronym_hq) for somehot 2020 gifs.

Spotlight: HD 50 – Lee Carter (D) v. Ian Lovejoy (R) 
For our district spotlight this week, we’re taking a look at HD 50, where Del. Lee Carter is facing a challenge from Manassas City Councilman Ian Lovejoy.

HD 50 covers Prince William County and Manassas City and has dramatically shifted towards Democrats in recent years. HD 50 used to be a swing district, voting 48-48 in the 2013 gubernatorial election and 50-47 for Gillespie in the 2014 US Senate election. The district swung hard to the left starting in 2016, voting for Clinton 53-41, then backing Northam 58-40 in 2017 and Kaine 62-35 in 2018.

Carter managed to defeat GOP House Majority Whip Jackson Miller 54-45, despite being outspent nearly 3-to-1 by Miller. Carter only slightly underperformed the top of the ticket, impressive given his spending disadvantage and his unapologetically Democratic Socialist stances. However, he’s in for a tough re-election fight against Lovejoy, who is a local elected official, running as a moderate, and has a significant cash on hand advantage as of the June 30th filing deadline.

Lovejoy has been running paid ads on Facebook fairly consistently since March, running both persuasion and donor acquisition ad campaigns. Over the past week, his campaign ran a series of static ads highlighting his education plan and a video ad focusing on his biography and moderate stances.

Meanwhile, Carter hasn’t run any paid Facebook ads since his primary, but he did run an aggressive paid ad program during the last month of his competitive primary.
Thanks for reading and make sure to sign up for weekly updatesfollow us on Twitter and email us with ideas of what you’d like us to dive into next.

– The team at ACRONYM

P.S. Here’s a sign-up link for our national FWIW newsletter and you can find today’s issue here.