Political Content on Social Media 2021

Political Content on Social Media 2021

Lessons for Commercial Marketers from the 2020 US Election Cycle

Executive Summary

Last year’s US presidential election played out on social platforms as much as it did in the streets and polling booths. This report discusses how politics shapes both the user and brand experiences on social media.

Are people spending less time on social media because of politics?

No. People say they are exhausted by politics on social media, but political content, particularly divisive discourse, continues to generate a lot of engagement for the platforms. At the same time, however, those feelings of exhaustion are driving some users to spend more time on platforms and content that are fun and entertaining, rather than serious or negative.

How is politics redefining the concept of brand safety?

Social media’s struggles with misinformation, fake news, and “echo chambers” (online communities of like-minded individuals) are making brands rethink their reliance on those platforms. As consumers increasingly expect the companies they engage with to stand for and do good, brands are becoming increasingly skeptical of social media.

How are political ad regulations affecting commercial advertisers?

Commercial advertisers stand to benefit. The game of political ad whack-a-mole is sending political campaign dollars off of social media and onto other platforms, like connected TV and OTT services, and forcing political campaigns to redirect their social efforts to organic and influencer marketing.

Should brands participate in political discourse on social media?

It’s down to brand values. Companies risk alienating a significant portion of their customers no matter what they do. Marketers also need to be prepared for backlash whether they take a stand on political issues or not.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report discusses consumer attitudes toward and engagement with politics on social media, and how marketers can navigate the increasingly divisive social media environment.

KEY STAT: In a January 2021 Ipsos survey, 63% of US adult internet users supported the social networks’ decisions to suspend or delete then-President Donald Trump’s accounts, but there were significant differences based on political party affiliation.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. 5 Lessons for Commercial Marketers
  3. Politics Didn’t Make People Spend Less Time on Social
  4. But Users Want to “Make Social Media Fun Again”
  1. The Definition of Brand Safety Has Broadened
  2. Facebook’s Political Ad Whack-A-Mole Benefits Commercial Advertisers
  3. Brand Values Should Lead When Deciding Whether or Not to Play Politics
  4. Key Takeaways
  1. Insider Intelligence Interviews
  2. Read Next
  3. Sources
  4. Media Gallery

Interviewed for This Report

Mike Addonizio
Vice President, Paid Media
Interviewed January 28, 2021
Grace Briscoe
Vice President, Candidates and Causes
Interviewed January 21, 2021
Jen Capstraw
Women of Email
Co-Founder and President
Interviewed January 28, 2021
Mary Keane-Dawson
Group CEO
Interviewed January 13, 2021
Vikram Sharma
Interviewed February 8, 2021
Harman Sodhi
Senior Director, Political and Enterprise Sales
Interviewed January 27, 2021
Richard Tomasco Jr.
Vice President, Caravan Surveys, Engine Insights
Interviewed January 27, 2021
Amy Worley
Chief Connections Officer
Interviewed October 20, 2021

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Jasmine Enberg


Lucy Koch
Junior Analyst
Nicole Perrin
Principal Analyst
Chuck Rawlings
Debra Aho Williamson
Principal Analyst
Yoram Wurmser
Principal Analyst