As the first caucuses of the 2020 Democratic primary draw closer, it’s an opportune time to review this first cycle in which we have had extensive, publicly available digital data. Candidates have used digital advertising in a variety of ways, with some leveraging its ability to drum up donations, and others focusing their efforts on persuading undecided voters. The eight leading Democratic contenders (Bloomberg, Steyer, Sanders, Buttigieg, Warren, Yang, Biden, and Klobuchar) have spent a combined $101.5M on Facebook and Google through the week of January 14th. Estimates of candidate digital spending ranged greatly, but we can now say that these presidential candidates dedicated an average of 20% of their paid media expenditures to digital. However, this number jumps up to 43% if you limit it to non-billionaires, showing the importance that digital has in the early parts of a cycle for candidates who rely on fundraising.

Three (non-billionaire) candidates have invested over $10M into digital: Buttigieg, Warren, and Sanders. Of these, Warren has narrowly put the highest share of her spending into digital, being the only candidate of

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