We’re rounding the final bend, but the election campaign marathon is now becoming a sprint to the finish, with political parties of all stripes upping their campaign pace and ad spend.
Analysis of social media spending data and the movements of major party leaders suggests neither party vying for government wants to leave anything on the table in their bid to form government in less than a week.
And the data suggests that if you’re sick of the campaign already, you might want to switch off social media for the next week, because the advertising is only ramping up.
Data from Facebook’s ad library report shows that in the week ending Tuesday, more than $3 million was spent by advertisers in Australia on election, political and social issues.
That’s up from about $2 million the week prior.
The figures include not-for-profit groups and other campaigners running ads on issues not explicitly linked to the federal election.
Spending is up everywhere, but when you account for the populations of each state and territory, we see that Tasmanians are getting far more attention than any other Australians.
That reflects the fact that a sizeable chunk of the island state’s population lives in a crucial marginal seat, and the narrowing attention on key seats as targets for ads advertising.
The spend may well exceed the levels seen during the Tasmanian state election campaign last year, before the campaign winds up.
One party is spending more
While everyone is upping the ante, one party has escalated quicker than the others.
The ABC has categorised each Facebook advertiser that has spent more than $100 in a single day on the platform at any point this year, according to whether they are political in nature, and which party or group they belong to.
Doing this gives a more comprehensive look at spending patterns across the parties than by looking at any individual candidate or party account.
The analysis shows that while the major parties had been in relative lock step through to mid-way through the campaign, Labor has since rapidly increased its spend on the platform.
Most of Labor’s spend has been on the national party account, which has also dialed up its negative messaging since the first day of the campaign.
The ABC has looked at the messaging in all ads with at least $200 spent on them on the major party’s main account, and classified them as primarily positive, or primarily negative.
Precise dollar figures for each ad are not disclosed by Facebook, but the ads represent, counting very conservatively, at least $1.3 million worth of spending.
The analysis does not consider any ad on any candidate or state party page.
Labor’s account started the campaign purely positive, but that quickly shifted.
It swung the dial entirely negative in late April with a barrage of attack ads about Scott Morrison, but has since moderated to the point where roughly half of its ads are negative.
Meanwhile, every single ad the Liberal Party has spent more than $200 on since April 26 has been negative, attacking either Labor, Anthony Albanese, Labor candidates, or independents.
Those are the big ads at least, but both major parties are also running scores of ads with smaller spends, and the messages in those vary.
Liberals offering different plans to different voters
The Liberals launched a series of ads targeted at individual electorates this week.
The ads promoting “Our Plan” have been running in at least 23 key seats, featuring the party’s candidates and MPs.
But the plan changes from seat to seat.
While everyone’s being told the Liberals will deliver “More Jobs”, “Lower Taxes”, “Better Health” and “Better Roads”, the fifth plank of the plan varies.
In 16 seats, including Corangamite, Pearce, and Braddon, “Stronger Defence” is being promised.
But in other seats, including those like Kooyong and Goldstein being challenged by teal independents, voters are being told about the plan for a “Cleaner Environment”.
The other seats that the Liberals clearly feel like the environment is a key issue are Flinders, Curtin, Sturt, Chisholm and Boothby.
The party is also tailoring its message in other parts of the country, like in Canberra, where the local branch of the Liberal Party is chasing the vote of consultants.
“Do you work as a contractor or consultant to the APS,” the ad asks.
“Under a Labor-Greens Alliance your job is at serious risk.”
It’s possibly the only part of the country where they make up a significant enough voting bloc to warrant direct targeting.
Labor revives cashless debit scare
This week, Labor has again been running ads to older Australians, stoking fears about the cashless debit card.
One ad bought by Queensland Labor features a pensioner from Bribie Island, who says “I won’t risk my pension on Scott Morrison”.
Bribie Island is located in the key marginal seat of Longman, currently held by the LNP on a 3.3 per cent margin.
Victorian Labor is also running ads on the topic, promising to “scrap the cashless debit card”.
While proving the effectiveness of any individual ad is an impossible task, Google Trends data does reveal a modest increase in search traffic for the term “cashless debit” in those two states in the most recent week.
The same lift has not occurred in other states for which data is available.