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Study: Radio Can Make A Difference Reaching Swing Voters This Election Year.

With political advertising the elephant (or donkey) in the room, given an expected near-$8 billion spend during this election year, moving ad money from TV to radio can impact not only the effectiveness of a campaign but also election results, by reaching swing voters. That's the main message of an American Association of Political Consultants' (AAPC) webinar this week in conjunction with Nielsen Media.

“The approaches you've used for past campaigns are going to need to adapt, because the way people use media has adapted and evolved,” Nielsen VP of Cross Platform Insights Tony Hereau says, referring to the increase in harder-to-reach younger registered voters with the lightest or no TV viewership, which made up 45% of voters in 2021. Meanwhile, both medium and heavier viewers skew older than the median voting age of 51. “It's those younger-skewing voters that are much harder to reach with television, because they're using it so little. It's going to make it harder to achieve those reach goals, or make it more expensive, when you keep over-saturating those heavy viewers and continuing to spend to reach those light or non-viewers.”

AM/FM radio, meanwhile, according to Nielsen, reaches 82% of voters who watch little to no TV, with higher reach among Black and Hispanic voters, and closer to nine in 10 working moms, dads, GenX-ers and baby boomers. That number also goes up for those who always vote in local, statewide or Presidential elections. In addition, radio reaches the audience missed by linear TV: those with a median age of 40 who skew toward higher household incomes, college graduates, more likely to have kids in the home, white collar employed and slightly more male. “This paints a picture of how desirable this group is,” Hereau says. “This is not just some afterthought of people that are just cord cutters. This is a key audience you definitely don't want to miss.”

Using the January 2021 Georgia Senate runoff elections, where both Democratic candidates won by a slim margin of 55,000 and 93,000 votes, Hereau shows how moving 10% of ad budgets from TV to radio in Atlanta for the same cost would make impact by reaching 235,000 more voters, including 117,000 swing voters, in a media environment less cluttered by political ads. Hereau notes that in terms of actual spend, Democrats spent 7% of their budget on radio vs. the GOP's 4%, which also could have made the difference.

Radio formats with the highest share of listeners, around 50%, identified as swing voters on a national basis include regional Mexican, alternative, CHR, hot AC, Spanish contemporary and classic rock. “[Some] political consultants were shocked to see that news and country were not on top of this list, [as] that's often where their political dollars go on radio,” Hereau says, “but that's really preaching to the choir, because a lot of those audiences already have people who've just made up their mind on whether they're voting Republican or Democrat.”

With $7.8 billion marked for political advertising in 2022, according to Kantar, where 2.7% is estimated to be spent on AM/FM radio, Hereau cites Nielsen research showing AM/FM makes up 14% of total media usage among adults 18+ in the U.S. “Usage is different than the way political advertising is spent with AM FM radio. It's really underutilized.”

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