Poland’s ruling party outspends all others combined in online election campaign advertising

Poland’s ruling party has been outspending all other parties combined when it comes to online advertising during the campaign for this month’s parliamentary elections, a new study has shown.

In the first seven weeks of the campaign, the national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) spent more than 3.3 million zloty (€718,000) on advertising on the four platforms – YouTube, Google, Instagram and Facebook – compared to 2.5 million zloty by all other parties, found the Batory Foundation, a liberal think tank.

The second biggest spender was PiS’s main political opponent, the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), which spent 1.75 million zloty, just over half as much as PiS.

They were then followed in a distant third by The Left (Lewica) with 462,650 zloty, then the centre-right Third Way (Trzecia Droga) on 234,228 zloty, far-right Confederation (Konfederacja) on 73,582 zloty, and Nonpartisan Local Government Activists (Bezpartyjni Samorządowcy) on 44,500 zloty (€9,623).

The study covered the period between 8 August, when the Polish president announced the election date, and 28 September. It did not take into account expenditure on Twitter or Tik Tok, with the latter a particularly popular platform with Confederation politicians.

To date, three-quarters of PiS’s online campaign spending has been allocated to YouTube ads, while PO has invested most in Facebook.

The Left, meanwhile, published the largest number of individual adverts, with almost 3,000 across all sites. In contrast to PiS and KO, which posted 2,694 and 2,682 ads respectively, the Left did not spend much on these advertisements, publishing mainly banners promoting their candidates, while the two other parties focused on broader campaigns.

Issues surrounding migration – which has been a major campaign issue for both PiS and the opposition – have been the most popular topic of election advertising in this campaign.

In its adverts, PiS most often focuses on creating a negative image of KO’s leader Donald Tusk, notes news service OKO.press.

The most expensive advert in this campaign so far was PiS’s spot linking Tusk to high unemployment, which has had over 10 million views. According to YouTube, its promotion cost between 400,000 and 450,000 zloty.

Transparency data from the online platforms show that most electoral committees reach out to women and men with similar frequency. Confederation, however, was an outlier, with 83% of the audience for its advertising being male. Meanwhile, women are most often targeted by The Left, making up 62% of the party’s audience.

Opinion polls have shown that Confederation is particularly popular among young men while The Left appeals strongly to young women.

The data shows that people aged under 35 make up two thirds of the audience for Confederation’s adverts and 46% for The Left.

After 18 years of alternating rule between PiS and PO, 80% of young Poles say they are frustrated with the political situation.

Many are instead being drawn to The Left and the far-right Confederation, writes @RBroszkowski https://t.co/5UEkXQosjj

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 25, 2023

The Batory Foundation also notes that the electoral committees have different strategies regarding targeting the location of audiences.

“Some, such as The Left or Confederation, target a very small proportion of their advertising to specific districts. The Third Way, on the other hand, allocates as much as 88% of its advertising to single out districts,” said the think tank.

“The strategies of PiS and KO are very similar, with just under half of their adverts designed to reach wider audiences and around 56% targeted at voters in a specific constituency.”

The majority of the large campaign donations received by the ruling party have come from senior managers at state-owned firms.

Opposition party PO has received donations primarily from private business leaders, in particular at gaming giant CD Projekt https://t.co/a90UkM5PnL

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) August 21, 2023

Main image credit: Pixabay / Pexels 

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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