Today, Immigration Hub and America’s Voice released a new report that tracks the content, volume and impact of right-wing paid ad and social media campaigns centered on immigration. As the GOP begins to ramp up its attacks against Afghan refugees in the US, the report previews messages that will dominate the 2022 midterms, aimed at undermining Biden’s agenda and unseating critical Democratic seats in the next election cycle. Findings also include results of a new study measuring the impact of GOP and pro-immigrant ads with battleground voters that show how Democrats still hold an advantage on immigration by going on offense.
“Republican and right-wing messages haven’t changed since Trump’s departure,” stated Beatriz Lopez, the Immigration Hub’s Chief Political and Communications Officer. “The warning signals to Democrats are clear: It’s immigration today and it’ll be immigration in 2022. While the right-wing playbook is to exacerbate fears over the economy and public health with hyperboles over immigrants and the border, their strategy fails to shake voters’ strong support for a path to citizenship. Our tracking and testing among battleground voters makes clear that Democrats must go on offense by driving their efforts to deliver on a path to citizenship and sensible immigration solutions while exposing the GOP political gamesmanship on the issue.”
Republicans, their party committees and their political supporters have leaned heavily into messages that play at voters’ fears over safety, the economy and public health by hyperbolizing and falsifying narratives on a “Biden-Harris border crisis”, “mass amnesty”, and COVID-infected migrants and drugs crossing the border. Over a thee-month period, America’s Voice found more than 700 unique paid ads, displayed 52.6 million times on voters’ social media feeds across different platforms, all relying on anti-immigrant, divisive and xenophobic rhetoric. Additionally, in June alone, more than 136,000 articles on immigration appeared and generated more than 25 million interactions on social media, with right-wing accounts driving the conversation.
As part of the report’s release, America’s Voice launched a new website tracking Republican and right-wing advertisements and social media content on immigration and other topics that drive xenophobic narratives. Zachary Mueller, America’s Voice’s Digital Communications Manager, said, “Republicans want to keep politics focused on division and fear to mobilize their smaller number of dedicated voters. Democrats would do well to keep their focus on what the American people want – including a path to citizenship for immigrant workers – rather than focussing on what Republican candidates want Americans to fear.”
Primary findings include:
- Top Immigration Messages Deployed Against Democrats. Republicans and their political supporters, such as Fox News, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the American Action Network, have leaned heavily into three key messages that aim to play at voters’ fears over safety, the economy and public health: (1) “Biden-Harris border crisis”, (2) mass amnesty and (3) COVID-infected migrants and drugs crossing the border.
- Right-wing Paid Ad Campaigns Primarily Center on Immigration. While paid advertising is predictably down in an off-year for federal elections, according to new tracking by America’s Voice, Republicans and their allies have deployed over 700 unique paid ads, displayed 52.6 million times on voters’ social media feeds across different platforms – including 623 unique anti-immigrant Facebook ads pushing the “border crisis” narrative since March, spending upwards of $592,000. The majority of these messages center on the top three messages targeted at President Biden and Democratic members of Congress in battleground states.
- Increasing Misinformation on Immigration Widens Reach of Attacks. More than 3 million anti-immigrant mentions and thousands of online articles have been deployed to misinform the public and support attacks led by the Republican Party. Between June 29 and July 27, over 136,000 articles were published on immigration, generating 25.7 million Facebook and Twitter interactions.
- GOP Border Attacks Fail to Dampen Support for Citizenship. Democrats Still Hold Advantage and Can Move Voters Favorably By Going on Offense. The report includes new results of a study by Immigration Hub, conducted by BlueLabs Analytics, testing political ads among Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania voters. A GOP ad that attacked President Biden on his management of the border failed to move voters against a path to citizenship, only managing to drive down Biden’s approval numbers. However, voters who viewed the Hub’s ad that exposed the GOP’s obstruction and politicization of the border and pushed for citizenship, moved voters in favor of Democrats. By going on offense, Democrats have an opportunity to counter the Republican electoral playbook.
See full report details.
Voters across the country can expect further exposure to right-wing ad campaigns and misinformation, aimed at undermining President Biden’s agenda on immigration and a number of issues and flipping Democratic seats in battleground states. Democrats will need to go on offense, delivering on a path to citizenship and spearheading solutions-based immigrant messaging that will move and maintain critical sets of swing voters ahead of the 2022 midterms.