Building Swing State Facebook Campaigns for 2022

Putting Social Security Front and Center

Engaging seniors in Florida In May of 2020 Respectful Exits saw the Trump campaign’s intentions to attack democratic institutions, including fair workplaces and Social Security in its second term. We launched an educational campaign designed to win the respect and support of some of the 450,000 Facebook users in Florida who were 55 or older and showed an interest in Social Security.

Rather than spend millions of dollars on traditional advertising (TV, radio, mailings, digital ads, etc.), we took a page from the highly successful Russian global campaigns on Facebook, including their assist of the 2016 Trump effort.

Those campaigns appreciated – and expertly exploited — the difference between advertising and persuasion. Third party repetition of a raw message lacks the power of validation that engaged Facebook supporters can generate.

Mining Facebook Our strategy was simple: stop Trump in the crucial swing state of Florida. An election night victory in that early-counting, delegate-rich state with a large aging population would enable him to claim “victory” and attempt to invalidate the late-counting votes from the rest of the swing states..

Trump was already hemorrhaging support among the key elderly component of his base due to his betrayal of their lives and futures by ignoring the ravages of COVID. We believed that we could build on this defection by establishing ourselves as a trustworthy source of information on age discrimination, Social Security and the threat posed to it by Trump and his debt-obsessed Republican party. His indifference to the elderly and acceptance of their death and poverty could cost him support.

We cannot assess precisely what impact our modest campaign had in the overall Florida outcome. A little noticed but stunning result showed up in the post-election exit interviews. President Trump’s electoral margin among seniors dropped by a full 12 percentage points between the 2016 and 2020 contests. Despite the Trump campaign’s intensive efforts with Hispanic voters and the Biden campaign’s admittedly weak and dis-organized Florida campaign, the would-be autocrat’s great Florida landslide with accompanying bragging rights was denied him.

We learned a great deal about the power of Facebook as an organizing tool in the process. Unlike one-way advertising with static messaging and questionable assumptions, the ongoing, educational process of engaging participants and enabling them to challenge each other offers the opportunity to surface and refute extraordinarily common and false beliefs about the most basic facts of our civic and business life. It remains a highly effective tool for building support for Respectful Exits and its goals.

Building on Success The years ahead are particularly perilous ones for our democracy, for aging workers and retirees and, in particular, for those who depend on Social Security as their economic lifeline. With sufficient resources we can build on the framework of our Florida campaign and mount a sustained campaign in the key battleground states where modest movement at the margins will make the difference between a sustainable future and intolerable alternatives.

Working with our proven social media partner we will cost-effectively test and deploy effective narratives and messages with populations on Facebook and other platforms. with the remarkably cost-effective campaigns they afford.

When fully funded and implemented, this effort will inform and persuade millions of 55+ voters – white, black, brown and Native – in at least Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas. We will describe our strategy and results in our newsletter, blog and updates to supporters.

To join our Facebook campaign, go to https://www.facebook.com/RespectfulExits/