In the year after the 2020 presidential election, right-leaning pages dominated the discussion around elections and voting on Facebook, earning more interactions than even left-leaning and ideologically nonaligned pages combined. Former President Donald Trump’s election-related posts -- many of which Facebook labeled to correct misinformation -- earned millions of interactions even though he was banned from the platform two months after the election.
In our latest analysis, Media Matters reviewed nearly 1.6 million election-related posts that were published by politics and news Facebook pages -- between November 3, 2020, and November 2, 2021 -- and found that right-leaning pages led the discussion around elections in the last 12 months, sharing the most election-related posts and earning the most interactions (reactions, comments, shares).
Key findings include:
- Right-leaning pages earned over 2.7 billion interactions on more than 645,000 posts. Though these interactions accounted for nearly 54% of total interactions on all election-related posts, the number of posts accounted for only roughly 42% of all politics and news pages posts.
- Trump posted 74 of the top 100 election-related Facebook posts with the most interactions, including five of the top 10 posts.
- Nearly 75% of Trump's 433 election-related posts were labeled with at least one of Facebook's 18 different labels related to the election. These posts earned over 176 million interactions.
- Left-leaning pages earned over 1.5 billion interactions (over 29%) on roughly 358,000 posts (over 23%), and ideologically nonaligned pages earned around 862 million interactions (nearly 17%) on roughly 549,000 posts (over 35%).
Since President Joe Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 presidential election, right-wing media and politicians have spent the year pushing the Big Lie that the election was stolen from Trump. The false claims have taken hold among the Republican Party, as 75% of Republicans believe there were “real cases of fraud that changed the results,” and Republican politicians are pushing restrictive voting laws.
Even before the presidential election, Trump and right-wing media laid the groundwork to push false claims of widespread voter fraud. In fact, Media Matters found that right-leaning Facebook pages earned nearly 92 million interactions on over 17,600 posts about voting between March 12 and June 12, 2020, with the top posts promoting claims of voter fraud and attacks on vote by mail. Most of the top posts were posted by Trump -- a trend that continued after the election.
Election misinformation on Facebook has continued to thrive -- even after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Groups dedicated to election misinformation have remained on the platform, Facebook has earned revenue from ads with such misinformation, and Trump’s posts with false claims are still earning engagement despite his ban and Facebook’s labels on the posts.
Our latest analysis shows that right-leaning pages, particularly Trump’s, still dominated election-related discussion on Facebook in the year after the election, even though the posts were filled with misinformation and conservatives have repeatedly claimed they are being censored by the platform. (Media Matters and others have demonstrated again and again that no such bias or censorship exists.)
Right-leaning pages earned overwhelmingly more interactions
A Media Matters analysis found that right-leaning pages earned over 2.7 billion interactions on roughly 645,000 election-related posts in the last 12 months. Though these interactions accounted for nearly 54% of total interactions on all election-related posts, the number of posts accounted for only roughly 42% of all politics and news pages posts.
In fact, right-leaning pages earned more interactions on these posts than left-leaning and non-aligned pages combined. Left-leaning pages earned over 1.5 billion interactions (over 29%) on roughly 358,000 posts (over 23%), and ideologically nonaligned pages earned around 862 million interactions (nearly 17%) on roughly 549,000 posts (over 35%). Overall, left-leaning and ideologically nonaligned pages posted 260,000 more times than right-leaning pages, but they still earned fewer interactions.
Trump’s posts filled with election misinformation account for 74% of the top 100 posts
Trump posted 433 times with election-related keywords between November 3, 2020, and January 7, 2021, when he was banned from posting on Facebook. These posts earned over 176 million interactions, or an average of 408,000 interactions per post -- far exceeding the average of other right-leaning pages.
In fact, Trump posted 74 of the top 100 election-related Facebook posts with the most interactions that were posted by politics and news pages, even though he was active on the platforms for only roughly two months of the year-long time frame.
Many of Trump’s election-related posts were riddled with election misinformation and accusations of election fraud, including five posts that were among the top 10 posts from all politics and news pages and earned over 8.8 million interactions. These posts remain on Facebook and continue to earn engagement, even though Trump is still banned from the platform.
Facebook labeled hundreds of Trump’s posts about the election but they still earned millions of interactions
During the 2020 presidential election, Facebook attempted to combat election misinformation by using labels to warn that a post contained false information or to provide authoritative information about a topic discussed. Facebook executives touted these labels after the election, but a Media Matters analysis over the summer found that Trump’s posts with labels actually earned more interactions per post than his overall posts.
In our latest analysis, we found that nearly 75% of Trump’s election-related posts were labeled with at least one of Facebook's 18 different labels related to the election. The most common labels, which were on 220 of his posts, clarified that Joe Biden is the current sitting president or said the United States has many systems in place to “ensure the integrity of our elections.” The posts with these labels earned nearly 87 million interactions.
Other labels on Trump’s election-related posts said there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election, there are strict rules surrounding ballot counting, and both in-person and mail-in voting are trustworthy methods. These posts accumulated over 48 million interactions.
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of 1,773 Facebook pages that frequently posted about U.S. politics from January 1 to August 25, 2020.
For an explanation of how we compiled pages and identified them as right-leaning, left-leaning, or ideologically nonaligned, see the methodology here.
The resulting list consisted of 771 right-leaning pages, 497 ideologically nonaligned pages, and 505 left-leaning pages.
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled all election-related posts for the pages on this list between November 3, 2020, November 2, 2021.
We defined posts as related to elections and voting if a post was returned in the Crowdtangle search with any of the following terms in the message or in the included link, article headline, or article description: “ballot,” “biden,” “democrats,” “dems,” “election,” “general chatter about voting,” “poll watcher,” “polling place,” “polling station,” “republicans,” “the election,” “trump,” “vote,” “voted,” “your state,” “election results,” “rigged," “election integrity,” “voter,” “voter fraud,” “electoral college,” “ballots,” ”certifying," “chosen electors,” “corrupt,” “corruption,” “count,” “decertification,” “decertify,” “decertifying,” “democratic process,” “dominion,” “election,” “election fraud,” “election victory,” “electoral college,” “found ballots,” “stolen election,” “stop the steal,” “vote dump,” “vote tabulation,” “voter dump,” “voter fraud,” “voter tabulation,” “voting,” “mail-in ballot,” “mail-in box,” “election box,” “election machines,” “stopthesteal,” "#stopthesteal," “2020 election,” “election 2020,” “mail in ballots,” “mail-in ballots,” “mail in ballot,” “mail-in ballot,” “integrity hearings,” “integrity hearing,” “fraud hearing,” or "fraud hearing.”
We reviewed data for these resulting 1,551,835 posts, including total interactions -- reactions, comments, and shares) -- using CrowdTangle.