New Poll: 44% of Americans Find Political Ads Acceptable

New Poll: 44% of Americans Find Political Ads Acceptable

A new Public Affairs Council/Morning Consult poll finds that Americans are divided on the propriety of political advertising, with 44% believing it is acceptable for political groups to advertise on social media and 39% believing it is not acceptable. The findings were released this week at The Advocacy Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The survey of 2,200 adults also explores whether social media posts sway public opinion, who the public trusts for political information and which policy ad topics are considered most acceptable.

“As we approach the 2020 elections, we’ll continue to debate how to share political information,” said Public Affairs Council President Doug Pinkham. “The findings show that there is a place for political advertising in the conversation, especially when it comes to increasing public awareness around specific policies.”

Americans are divided on political advertising.

  • While Forty-four percent (44%) of Americans believe it is acceptable for political groups to advertise on social media, users of individual platforms are more likely to call for a ban of advertising on political and social issues.
  • Younger people are more likely to support political advertising, with 56% of Gen Z (age 18-22) finding it acceptable while only 34% of Boomers (age 55-73) agree.
  • Different policy issues receive different advertising favorability scores. Education had the highest rating with 48% of Americans saying this is an acceptable ad topic. Healthcare and the economy were right behind with 46% each.

Social media posts on politics have impact.

  • One out of five Americans (20%) report they have changed their opinion on a political issue after seeing or reading a post.
  • Across the political spectrum, 63% of Americans feel their posts have at least a small impact on their followers. However, perceived impact varies by age. Seventy-two percent (72%) of 18-29-year-olds believe their posts make at least a small impact, compared to 53% of seniors (65+).
  • Many Americans have been exposed to major political and social movements through social media, including gun control (40% of Americans read posts on this topic), gun rights (39%), Impeach Trump (39%), Make America Great Again (33%) and Black Lives Matter (32%).

Trust in political communication depends on the source.

  • Information from friends and family on social media is trusted by 53% of the public, while information from news outlets on social media is trusted by only 34%.
  • Political campaigns are considered less trustworthy sources for unpaid posts, with only 3% trusting them “a lot” and 16% trusting them “some.”

Social media usage differs greatly by generation.

  • Millennials (age 23-38) and Gen X (age 39-54) are the biggest Facebook users, with 60% of Millennials and 58% of Gen Xers reporting using Facebook multiple times a day.
  • Just one-third (32%) of Gen Z (age 18-22) report using Facebook multiple times a day.
  • Generational differences are most pronounced on Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. For those platforms, Gen Z far outpaces other demographic groups.

Other notable findings:

  • Forty-five percent (45%) of social media users report they see or read political posts from those they follow at least somewhat often.
  • Fifty-four percent (54%) of liberals report posting on social media about political issues at least occasionally compared to 40% of conservatives and 39% of moderates.


view the full survey results here