More men watch ‘Freedom Fighting’ Facebook Ads

The United Australia Party is reaching more men than women with its freedom-themed Facebook ads, in the lead-up to the 2022 federal election.

The party, led by former senator and businessman Clive Palmer along with Federal MP Craig Kelly, is the most prominent online advertiser in Australian politics.

Common themes of the UAP’s adverts are stoking discontent with the current political landscape and promoting fighting for the return of freedoms perceived to have been lost during the pandemic.

Of the 16 UAP ads run on Facebook between November 1, 2021 and February 1, 2022, eight of them focussed on such issues and another three made reference to them.

Adverts carrying the theme of freedom, were shown to men 57 per cent of the time, compared to 43 per cent for women.

These ads promised the party would always fight for freedom and discussed freedoms that had supposedly been lost. Phrases like ‘freedom forever’ were commonplace and some videos included footage of Clive Palmer talking at a ‘freedom rally.’

Similarly, when the advert focussed on attacking current parties and politicians, men saw the ad 55 per cent of the time and women just 43 per cent. This is compared to ads concerning economic plans and policies being shown to men and women 51 to 47 per cent of the time respectively.

General UAP ads, such as Christmas and New Year messages and addresses, were also shown relatively evenly with 50 percent of the ads’ viewers female and 49 per cent male.

Facebook allows advertisers to pay for a targeted audience to see any specific ad. Demographics can be homed in on like age, gender, geographical location and interests. This is often used by political parties to reach certain groups that they want to influence.

According to Dr Ben Rich, co-director of the Curtin Extremism Research Network, the United Australia Party has based much of its messaging on a traditionalist view of Australian history that is eroding in the eyes of the UAP’s core base.

He said that while the use of identity politics messaging often does not appeal to a large group of people, it is an effective political tool in encouraging a hardcore base of supporters to become engaged in politics.

Dr Rich warned that continuing to push identity politics and culture wars will further divide society and make it harder to cooperate as a democracy.

“If you follow that logic to its conclusion you end up in a pretty dark space and the space you end up in is ultimately not very democratic.”

The UAP has gained a reputation for spending big on online ads in recent elections.

Huge investments into online advertising, as seen with the UAP, has the potential to reach large audiences, approximately 63 per cent of all Australians have a Facebook account, and 40 per cent of under-30-year-olds use the app weekly.

Between November 1, 2021 and February 1, 2022, UAP spent $606,977 on Facebook ads. This is compared to $37,132 spent by the Liberal Party of Australia and $31,000 by the Australian Labor Party.

In the lead up to the 2019 election the UAP spent at least $83 million across its campaign but failed to win any seats in the Lower or Upper House.