Network News Top Voter Source

Oct 20, 2003  •  Post A Comment

While much of the country was amusing itself with the circus-like aspects of the California recall that ended with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s election as governor, Initiative conducted a serious study of Golden State voters’ media preferences.
The media buying agency said information about the voters’ primary sources of political information during the recall indicates how candidates might best use the media to reach voters.
“One of the things we learned in this study is that political advertising isn’t necessarily the most effective resource for getting your message across,” said Stacey Lynn Koerner, Initiative’s executive VP and director of global research integration. “We would be advising [advertisers] that if they wanted to be around political content or if they were a campaign, that they should be accessing as many different points of media contact as possible, because no one person is going to be looking at one source of information anymore.”
Initiative conducted three proprietary online surveys with 1,100 California residents between Sept. 12 and Oct. 9.
The results showed that network news had a slight lead over other outlets as the respondents’ primary source of political information. Network news was cited by 16 percent, newspapers by 15 percent, Internet by 14 percent, cable news by 13 percent and radio talk shows by 11 percent. Newspapers had a likewise narrow lead (20 percent) as the secondary source for political information over network news (18 percent), cable news (12 percent), public TV or talk radio (9 percent) and the Internet (8 percent).
The Internet was used to research candidates’ positions on issues by 48 percent of the respondents, to see political leaders’ views of the candidates (30 percent) and to gauge public opinion (22 percent). Forty-five percent of the respondents said TV news prompted them to go to the Internet for more information.
“We thought that was fascinating,” Ms. Koerner said of the Internet’s roles.
In the final week of the gubernatorial recall, debates were most relied on for political information by 37 percent of the respondents, second only to network news (38 percent). In contrast, least-relied-upon sources for political information were billboards and transit signs (90 percent), print political ads (86 percent), pamphlets from candidates or parties (79 percent), TV talk shows (75 percent) and TV political ads (70 percent).
In predominantly Democratic metropolitan areas, larger percentages relied on cable news (34 percent) and debates (40 percent), while Republican markets relied most on the Internet (36 percent) and newspapers (35 percent).
Negative political ads produced a “boomerang effect,” with 61 percent saying negative ads lowered the credibility of the sponsoring candidate.
Seventy-seven percent of the respondents said their voting decisions were not affected by candidates’ appearances on talk shows. Forty-four percent said the entertainment TV talks shows (including “The Tonight Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show”) focus too much on trivial details.
Candidates should note that if they want the public to hear and remember their message, respondents indicated they are most likely to pay attention from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. (36 percent) and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (53 percent).
“It was definitely the early morning and the early fringe, which are really sort of drive times,” Ms. Koerner said. “People are transitioning between different aspects of their lives, whether it be home to work or work to home, but they’re still in active thought mode, as opposed to when we get to 8 o’clock or prime time, they’re really ready to relax and absorb more entertainment media.”