Sofia | Aug 03, 2020

With Election Day less than two months away, politicians have ramped up their ad spend in key swing states during this last leg of the campaign race. And with it being a presidential election year, U.S. political ad spending is projected to hit nearly $10.2 billion, a 63% increase from 2008’s spend ($6.26 billion). Of that total spend, digital will see its biggest growth ever, accounting for $1 billion of political ad spending, or 9.8% of the total, according to eMarketer.

Additionally, 35% of registered voters find digital to be a more important and influential source than TV for candidate and issue info they will use in this election season, notes an IAB report released earlier this year.

Given these record-setting figures and as more politicians rely on digital advertising to influence voters, we wanted to learn more about Americans’ cross-screen habits as the 2016 presidential election approaches. So, we surveyed 1,500 mobile users in the U.S. across our mobile ad platform to find out.

Here’s what we discovered:

An educated America

Need a quick “how-to” on replacing a flat tire? Want to learn more about craft beer? Missed out on Apple’s latest keynote? What’s the latest on the presidential race?

Thanks to the Internet, we’re able to educate ourselves on any topic, any time we’d like to. When it comes to political news, we learned that 100% of respondents keep up with news about the upcoming election, with over one-third (35%) stating that they “keep up with political news…all the time.”

And with two-thirds going out of their way to look up videos and news on their mobile devices, it’s no wonder political campaigns are on track to spend $1 billion on digital advertising in 2016.

Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) also find it important to keep up with political news across more than one device (i.e., TV, tablet, smartphone). A majority of political ad spend still belongs to TV (broadcast and cable) and though more than half (55%) of Americans prefer to learn more about a candidate or campaign through the television, 22% prefer to do so via their mobile device. Of that group, 46% of millennials prefer to research on mobile.

The IAB study found that when Americans consume political news digitally, 40% will use their mobile device and 27% will refer to their tablets. Our mobile devices allow us to easily access any information we need, when we need it. So when news outlets can’t reach their audience during primetime TV – 42% and 41% of voters check the news in the morning and afternoons, respectively (via IAB) – they should consider reaching them through what we’re calling “Today’s Primetime” – popular mobile apps trending in the top 100 that can reach TV-sized audiences.

It’s all about the apps

In Q2 2016, we learned that mobile users spend 33.5 minutes a day on their mobile devices, a 9.4% jump from Q1. As digital advertising becomes more of an important way to target and sway voters, campaigns have adjusted their strategies to find and communicate with their audiences on mobile.

When asked how much digital advertising and social media affect their feelings towards a candidate, 40% said had it an impact on their opinions of them. Though social media apps such as Facebook and Snapchat can reach quite a large audience, we can’t forget the big opportunities that lie outside of social media.

What this means for brands and marketers

Consumer time spent on mobile is much more fragmented – it’s not all social media. There are so many other slivers of the mobile app pie that exist in other categories. In fact, we recently found that the News & Information app category was no. 1 for impression volume in the United States. On election night, 2 in 3 Americans will actually be checking news apps for result updates.

Based on our survey, we noticed a clear trend in the reliance on mobile devices among Americans for political news updates and research. Not only that, but a more distinct trend towards an app-first audience among mobile usage.

As a marketer, it’s difficult to reach your audience in such a fragmented space;  think beyond TV and social media, because the mindset of the audience while using those mediums may not be ideal to receive the message you are sending. If they are consuming content in News & Information apps, however, especially during election season, those users are likely to be more receptive to messaging than they would if they were scrolling through photographs or memes on social media apps. Take the opportunities that high quality publishers in other categories offer where you can reach your target audience effectively.

About the survey:

What role do our mobile devices play in influencing our political opinions? Opera Mediaworks surveyed 1,500 mobile users in the U.S. to find out.

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