In their social media campaign to impeach Gov. Gavin Newsom, supporters of the recall blame him for a wide variety of ailments, with each ad targeting specific voters based on their demographics and interests.
From drought and gas prices to wildfires and homelessness, pro-recall ads on social media seek to exploit the anxieties of Californians that go beyond pandemic policies.
“If Gavin Newsom wins, get ready to shut off the water,” reads a Facebook ad from pro-recall group Rescue California.
Another ad claims Newsom invited the homeless of the world to come to California.
“We want someone to be to blame for all of these things that are beyond our control,” said Kim L. Nalder, professor of political science at Sacramento State University, “and the governor is on top of the structure of state government. “
Social media advertising has grown to disproportionate proportions during the recall effort, in large part due to the campaign’s compressed timeline and the challenges that recall promoters face in quickly raising funds to pay for advertising. televised in key state markets.
Anne Hyde Dunsmore, campaign manager for Rescue California, said social media ads are also more effective because they can be “micro-targeted” to individual voters based on age, ethnicity, location. residence and interest. Advertisements on the water are aimed at residents of the Central Valley and advertisements at the homeless in urban areas, she said.
“They are also much cheaper” than TV and radio commercials, she said. “You talk about removing some zeros.”
Melissa R. Michelson, professor of political science at Menlo College, agreed that social media ads are particularly powerful, not only because they can be targeted, but also because social media users tend to be a captive audience.
“People pretty often consume social media on their phones, flipping through while in line for something or when they have a spare moment,” she said. “So you tend to have your eyes on things in a different way. … Looking to be distracted.
Newsom, of course, also uses social media to get Democrats to vote.
He has more money to spend than supporters of the recall, and his Facebook ads describe the recall effort as an attempted Republican coup backed by supporters of former President Trump. The ads suggest the lives of Californians are on the line as many of his proposed replacements would end vaccination mandates.
Ahead of the recall elections, polls showed substantial endorsement of Newsom’s actions as governor, Nalder said. Michelson agreed, but noted that former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, forced to resign after multiple allegations of sexual harassment, was also very popular not long ago.
Discontent with the status quo could prompt voters to kick Newsom out, even if he is not directly responsible for the evils plaguing the state, they said.
“Voting to keep the guy isn’t as stimulating as the idea of throwing him out if you’re angry,” Nalder said.
Polls have suggested it will be a close election that will be decided by turnout. The September 14 vote is the second attempt to remove a governor in two decades.
Voters ousted Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 during the last gubernatorial recall and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Newsom, however, has some perks that Davis lacked.
He was elected with a higher margin than Davis and doesn’t face a well-known, charismatic movie star with wide notoriety.
Polls show that the most likely replacement candidate to succeed Newsom would be Larry Elder, a conservative Southern California radio talk show host. One of Newsom’s Facebook ads features a photo of a smiling senior with Trump.
In addition, this time all voters can vote by post, which facilitates participation.
Still, political scientists say the possibility of recall should not be underestimated.
“If I were to bet money on this, I would bet he keeps his job,” said Nalder, executive director of CalSpeaks Opinion Research and director of the Informed Electorate Project, which promotes civic education.
“But this is not a done deal,” she added, “and Democrats have been caught off guard by their own apathy in the past.”
Michelman said it made sense for supporters of the recall to focus on issues other than the pandemic. Masking and vaccines have become “polarizing,” she said. Newsom is more vulnerable to other issues facing Californians, including homelessness, she said.
Facebook collects data on each user so that campaigns know their audience. They are likely targeting not only Republicans but also independents and “weaker Democrats” who might be willing to vote against Newsom, she said.
“Maybe there are Democrats who would normally vote Democrats and support the governor,” Michelman said. “But maybe even to them, if you make them think about homelessness and the housing crisis, they might say, ‘Yeah, that’s really fucked up. Why is it always so bad? Maybe the recall isn’t such a bad idea.
Hyde Dunsmore of Rescue California noted that recall efforts began before the pandemic, and voters should not be surprised that the ads targeted Newsom on other issues.
“COVID just threw gasoline on the fire,” she said.
Most of the ballots already sent out are from Democratic regions, she said. So far, around 22% of white voters have voted, 11% of Latinos, 1’7% of Asians and 18% of blacks.
She said polls show around 25% to 30% of Democrats are in favor of the recall and Republicans will likely want to vote in person. The flow of mail-in ballots has already started to slow, a good sign for campaigns for the recall, she said.
The turnout is now 18%, and “I think it’s going to be close to 60%,” she said. Davis’ recall participation rate was 61.2%.
“The trend is zero for Newsom,” she said.
California is strongly Democrat, a hurdle that recall forces have attempted to address in their social media ads trying to tap into the dissatisfaction of specific voters.
When voters are faced with portfolio and public safety issues, “it ceases to be partisan,” Hyde Dunsmore said. “It becomes personal.”