Ameya Khanapurkar, Rebecca Grunberg, Dr. Elena Grewal

Post election day, Democratic leaders have not strengthened their majority in the House of Representatives. This result could have been the product of multiple factors, but this post focuses on Facebook spending by the individual Democratic and Republican campaigns in competitive House districts, finding that Democratic candidates in aggregate spent 1.8x more than Republican candidates on Facebook ads. We share the dataset publicly here.

This data shows that *amount* of spending is not where Democratic candidates fell behind.

We use the August 7, 2020 Cook Political Report House Race Rating to identify competitive House races and categorize races as: Likely Democratic, Lean Democratic, Democratic Toss Up, Republican Toss Up, Lean Republican, and Likely Republican. The August 7th date was chosen because it is 3 months prior to election day, giving time for candidates to raise money and allocate spend on Facebook knowing their race may be competitive. A few of the candidates moved between groups after August 7th which is indicated in the dataset.

In each group, most Democratic candidates outspent Republicans by 2-3x on Facebook, with the exception of the “Likely Republican “group which was approximately even in spending between Republican and Democrats.

Facebook shares spending in the past 7 days and then in the past 2.5 years. We collected the data on November 7th so we can share the spend November 1st-3rd for each candidate and from May 5th 2018 - November 3rd 2020.

(There are 3 uncalled races that we did not include to calculate the % of Dem wins)

There were multiple unexpected outcomes that favored Republicans over Democrats and none that favored Democrats over Republicans. Republicans won “Likely Democratic” FL-27, “Lean Democratic” TX-23, and two initially rated “Democratic Toss Up” FL-26 and SC-1 that were designated as “Lean Democratic” in the latest Cook’s report. The 27th district of Florida was the only race of these four that had the Democratic candidate outspent by the Republican candidate by a factor of 79x. The other races all had Democratic candidates spending more.

The median difference in spend is even larger if we look at spend in the last three days of the election, November 1-3 (Note: Facebook stopped political ads after November 3rd). Democrats spent even more, relatively, in the final days in the Republican leaning races, which saw a 2% success rate of flips (1 seat out of 46).

When we plot spend vs vote share, while it appears there is a slight positive correlation between Facebook spend and vote share, this is driven by races which were already rated as “Likely Democratic”.

Democrats mostly outspent Republicans across the board in their individual races, yet did not see the returns that the Democratic Party looked forward to. Whether this is a matter of effective messaging or external spending should be researched next. It is also possible that the Cook’s ratings were not accurate due to polling bias.

Additional hypotheses we could check next:

  • Messaging: Democratic messaging may be more nuanced compared to the Republican messaging, perhaps due to the coalition of progressives, moderates, and “Never Trump” Republicans that Biden assembled. For example: Police Reform means many things to the Democratic Party as a whole, whereas Republicans have rallied around the “Back the Blue” message. We can categorize messages qualitatively, and compare the amount of money invested into those messages in relation to vote share for these Democratic candidates.

  • Targeting/Ad Strategy: We can look at whether Republicans tested more ads than Democratic candidates and whether there may be differences in targeting used. This is harder to determine with the data available but we can investigate what we see.

  • External Group Spending: External group spending could have made a big difference for candidates on both sides. Additional data collection could look into spend by outside groups in a given geography and also the messaging employed by those groups.

  • Other Digital Channels: It may be that the Republicans spent more on Google ads/Youtube or other digital channels. This is additional data we can look into collecting.

Understanding the details of digital outreach and its nuances is the difference between simply throwing money at a problem and prudently looking for solutions. We look forward to hearing from you about what you think of this data and what to look at next!

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Paula Maouyo, Dr. Elena Grewal, Sarah McGowan

This blog post outlines our working approach to practicing antiracism [1] as a community striving to bring data and power to the people. We at Data 2 the People firmly believe that the more openly we each share our learnings with each other, the faster we progress, and the faster we create the world we want. We believe we each have much to learn, and also that we each have something to teach. And so, as we forge ahead, let’s learn together and may

#eachoneteachone [2]

How we practice it concretely

Before we get started on specific steps, we first need to enumerate our principles for a fruitful practice of antiracism. These include: making a clear commitment to infusing this practice in everything we do; continually seeking to learn and iterating accordingly; being pragmatic in striving for progress, not perfection; maintaining low ego.

We believe it’s important to apply these principles to the following three areas, which are applicable to any organization:

  1. The team: It all starts with the people building the organization or community, so start with the team, with leadership modeling these principles and explicitly leading in normalizing discussion, action, and accountability.

  2. The work: Review how your line of work can be, and has historically been, racist (i.e. how it has assumed, even if non-overtly, supremacy or normalcy of one group over others, or unjustifiably privileged attention to one group over others), and test possible solutions to countering that.

  3. The industry: Communicate what you are learning from practicing antiracism to the broader community or industry, listen to what others are learning and sharing, and invite more people into the conversation and to take action.

Below are more details (non-exhaustive) on how we’re applying the above three-pronged approach at this time (and note, it is continually evolving!).

The team

Starting with the team is important because everything flows from the people. For a healthy practice, an organization’s commitment to antiracism/equity must be both top-down and bottom-up. Top-down, the leader(s) must lead by example in action and make explicit the importance of antiracism/equity to the team’s success. Bottoms-up, the broader team has to buy into and wholeheartedly recognize that antiracism/equity is critical to the team’s success, and to ensuring the most effective use of individual team members’ contributions.

Practicing antiracism/equity in building a team requires: recruiting people from a diverse range of backgrounds (racially and otherwise), fair assessment of candidates across backgrounds, equitable support of team members’ integration and growth after they join the team, and inviting the team to help us get better at all of the above. For us, that concretely looks like:

The work

Now, turning to the work we actually do. We exist as an organization precisely to help governments operate better and facilitate equal access to thriving for all. To help governments do this, we need to support and empower burgeoning leaders, organizers, and policy-makers who value and model equity. Here’s how we approach doing this:

The industry

We have no interest in being unique flowers in the industry regarding our insistence on equity, integrity, excellence, and truth-seeking. None interest whatsoever. Quite the opposite -- we desire for these to be industry norms. If another organization is modeling any of these better than we are, well, that will just push us to be better, and that’s a win! #eachoneteachone

Given our desired industry norms, we want to contribute to the ongoing conversation about racism and antiracism in the political data world. Hence this blog post. We also want to talk about antiracism explicitly in our conversations with campaigns, other political data science groups, with donors. Through these conversations, we can share ideas and learnings, and continue to learn, iterate, improve.

Now that we’ve shared what we’re learning and doing, what do you think? If you’re in the political world or political data world, we’d love to hear your thoughts! If you’re in a different industry or kind of community, how does the team/work/industry framework apply? Let us know! Let’s keep the conversation going, so we can grow with and learn from each other! May #eachoneteachone

[1] Our practice of antiracism is a fight against all forms of supremacy, i.e. any time any group or individual pursues their interests and desires at the expense of the agency of others. It is a fight for equity. It is a fight to build stronger communities, no matter their makeup; a fight for all communities to have the resources and the space to breathe, to grow, to learn.

[2] “Each one teach one” is a phrase I learned from a Black woman at a data science meetup back in 2016. I was struggling with something, I don’t remember what, and she helped me debug the situation. I sheepishly thanked her for her help, and she shrugged off my sheepishness saying the equivalent of, “Yeah, well I know you’ll be helping me or someone else with something before we know it. Each one teach one, you know what I mean?” It has since been verified by a personal Instagram-based survey (n=62...ish) that of all my Black and nonblack friends, only Black people have ever heard this phrase, and only from other Black people. In the spirit of operating generously, out of place of abundance, I share this phrase with you too, so that you, too, can incorporate #eachoneteachone vibes into your way of being, and collaborating/learning with others. You’re welcome!

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With five days to go, and a record 1.5 billion dollars donated to Democratic causes this past quarter, many Democrats are looking to give money and give smartly, and wondering where it can help in the last few days. The answer right now may surprise Democrats: it’s the Texas State House.

There is a once in a generation opportunity turn Texas blue, and if Democrats can pull off a surge in the last week, it could happen.

At this point, Democratic candidates running in competitive Senate races have a large funding advantage, after major momentum propelled by the changes in the Supreme Court. The charts below show how the funding advantage grew 10x for Democratic Senate candidates from $14M to $150M as of the last fundraising report (the exception is in Texas where John Cornyn has continued to out-raise MJ Hegar, though the race may be less competitive).

How it started: Competitive Senate races:

How it’s going: Competitive Senate races:

Data source:

In Senate races where the likelihood of success is lower, there are more stark differences. Jaime Harrison has $107M vs Lindsay Graham’s $66M; Amy McGrath has $88M vs Mitch Mcconnell’s $55M. There are only 3.5M registered voters in both South Carolina and Kentucky. The return on an additional dollar here is likely to be low.

At the presidential level, Biden has $939M and Trump has $595M. While this could change, it looks likely to hold.

So, the question remains: where could the throngs of eager Democratic donors make a difference as anxiety levels rise with 5 more days to go? Texas State House races are it.

Texas would be a huge win for Democrats, and in the last few days it’s looking possible. Recent polls showing Biden tied with Trump. There is a possible “trickle-up” effect where enthusiasm for down ballot candidates could help propel voter turnout for Democrats. Many of the Texas State House candidates are dynamic women who may excite voters to turn out to vote, which could mean a decision on election night about the presidency. Then, there’s the value of winning the Texas State House itself, which will give Democrats some say in the redistricting process in 2021 which will set districts for 10 years. With a growing population, Texas is likely to gain congressional seats, so how the lines are drawn matters more. And, only 9 seats need to flip for the Democratic candidates to have a majority. With 29M people, Texas is the largest state controlled by Republicans and has large wind and solar potential, so the impact in terms of number of people governed and the global impact is large.

Most importantly, the Texas State House is the place to donate, because it’s a good investment.

Across State Legislatures, Texas and Florida are the two states where Democratic candidates were vastly out-raised by Republicans prior to the latest funding report. With the latest report though, Texas has momentum.

How it started: State House Races:

How its going: State House Races:

Data source: and

Using the two simple criteria to determine where donations will make a difference, enough Texas State House races make the cut to flip the chamber. The first criteria is that the Republican won by a small margin in 2018. The second is that the Republican outspent the Democratic candidate in 2018 by a large margin.

Only 9 districts need to flip for Democrats to win, and at the top of that list is Texas State House District 138. In 2018 the Democratic candidate lost by only 47 votes while being out-raised over 3x. Though the funding gap has narrowed, Republican Lacey Hull, supported by Governor Abbott, has still raised 60% more money than the Democratic candidate, Akilah Bacy.

For others, the fundraising gap in 2018 was even more extreme. In District 54, the Democratic candidate was out-raised 15x in 2018, while only losing by a few thousand votes. Now, Likeithia “Keke” Williams needs only $138k to close the funding gap in 2020.

It is striking how many of these candidates are women and people of color, with a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences (from a university professor to a candidate whose husband was sentenced to life in prison at age 19). One can only imagine what the Texas State House might be like with this diversity and empathy infused into the State House.

There is currently historic early voter turnout in Texas, but it is worth noting that this high turnout does not necessarily mean a Democratic advantage in these districts. Republicans may well be turning out at high numbers also. The final week will be critical.

This is a moment to be smart and strategic with donations. An opportunity to flip Texas is one the Democrats should not miss.

Our top recommendation for last-minute donations is to Lone Star Votes, the Texas State PAC we are supporting. You can also donate to the Texas Democratic Party here.

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