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President Donald Trump speaks at a roundtable on the economy and tax reform at Nuss Trucking and Equipment on April 15, 2019 in Burnsville, Minnesota. Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Trump campaign is spending nearly half (44%) of its Facebook ad budget to target users who are over 65 years old, as opposed to Democratic candidates who are only spending 27% of their budget on that demographic, according to data given to Axios exclusively from Bully Pulpit Interactive. 

Why it matters: In the wake of huge 2018 Democratic gains among young voters, older voters will be even more critical to Trump's strategy in 2020. 

Expand chart
Adapted from a Bully Pulpit Interactive chart; Chart: Axios Visuals
"We assume Trump is making a huge play to hold an advantage he had in 2016 with older white voters. This follows the public statements from the campaign manager that they plan to target and reach all of their voters online, not just cultivate small-dollar donors."
— Ben Coffey Clark, partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive

Between the lines: Other data points pulled from the Facebook ad archive show that the President is using most of those ads targeted towards older people to talk about immigration. 

  • Trump is using nativist language around immigrants in 54% of his ads, according to BPI. So far Democrats have not responded in kind on the topic of immigration and are focused on fundraising and other policy issues.
  • "The one thing the Trump campaign has proven time and again is that they follow the results and optimize for outcomes and not the general consensus," says Zac Moffatt, CEO and founder of public affairs firm Targeted Victory, which specializes in corporate and conservative issue campaigns and causes.

How it works: Facebook opened up its ad archive API (application programming interface) for the first time in March in a way that makes it possible to glean insights about a campaign's targeting and messaging strategy. Previously, spend dynamics were available, as was ad creative, but this level of granularity around ad targeting was not. 

By the numbers: In total, the Trump campaign is only targeting voters 18-35 with 4.3% of his total ad budget. 

  • Unsurprisingly, Democrats Tusli Gabbard, Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke are doubling down on young people, spending almost four times as much as Trump to reach those voters.
  • Both Democrats and Trump are targeting middle-aged people, ages 34-65 roughly, at the same percentage of total spend. 

Be smart: The Facebook algorithm will usually optimize ads towards younger voters who are easier to reach, which reinforces The Trump campaign's commitment to consolidate its base with older voters.

The big picture: Multiple studies released over the past year suggest that Facebook usage on the core app is tilting much older, as younger users flock to apps like TikTok and Facebook-owned Instagram.

  • Traditionally, campaigns have been able to target older viewers mostly via national TV buys or direct mailings. This data shows that the Trump campaign sees an opportunity to target them digitally too.

Go deeper

Updated 48 mins ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

American officials and authorities in Haiti are working to try and free 17 hostages from a U.S.-based missionary group who were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince over the weekend, AP reported Monday.

The latest: Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement Sunday, "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children." The Ohio-based organization said they were on a trip to visit an orphanage when they were kidnapped Saturday.

China's economic growth slows

A worker assembles heavy truck engines in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, on Monday. Photo: Long We/Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

China's economy grew 4.9% in the third quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier, the country's National Bureau of Statistics announced Monday.

Why it matters: The gross domestic product growth in the July-September period in the world’s second-largest economy marked the "weakest pace since the third quarter of 2020 and slowing from 7.9% in the second quarter," Reuters notes.

4 hours ago - World

Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier

Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London in July 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary released Sunday.

Why it matters: The FBI drew on former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government, which led to former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.