The Presidential Campaign Ad-Buying Blueprint

by Christian Schneider

Are Green Bay Packers fans more conservative than Indianapolis Colts fans? Are Fox News viewers more politically active than MSNBC viewers? Is a GOP presidential candidate better off buying television or radio ads in Chicago?

These questions are answered in a fascinating new study by the Midwest Foundation for Media Research, which compiled media-viewership data from eight Midwestern cities into bubble charts that measure viewership, voter intensity, and audience size.

The cities measured (Columbus, Milwaukee, Des Moines, Minneapolis–St. Paul, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Cleveland) will likely see heavy campaign ad buys in the 2012 election. Yet, as the report points out, merely collecting money and spending it isn’t enough for a campaign. In order to make the best of their resources, candidates need to know where they can most efficiently rent the eyeballs of their target audiences.

The bubble charts can be seen here. The charts measure the ideologies of viewers of specific cable channels, Internet sites, and sports teams (for three of the markets). The X axis demonstrates ideological intensity, the Y axis measures political engagement, and the size of the bubble shows how big the market is for each media outlet.

Among the report’s findings:

— Television viewers leaned heavily towards Democrats in every media market except Des Moines.

— As one might expect, in every case tested, the heaviest users of media ranked average or higher than average in political engagement and influence. Media consumers in the lowest quintiles tend to vote at lower levels, while people who seek out news tend to rank higher on influence and engagement.

— This is especially true for Internet users, who leaned Republican in every market tested. Internet users were also the group most likely to be engaged in politics in every market except Milwaukee, where newspaper readers are engaged at higher levels than Internet consumers.

— Of all the mediums, newspaper readers are the most ideologically mixed: In the markets tested, three cities’ newspaper readers favored Democrats, two cities’ favored Republicans, and three cities’ were very close to being right in the middle.

— The top quintile of radio listeners favored Republicans in five of the eight markets. In two markets, radio listeners favored Republicans only slightly. Indianapolis was the only market in which radio listeners favored Democrats. In every case, political intensity among radio listeners was not particularly high. Almost uniformly, radio listeners are engaged only marginally above the average.

— Generally, networks favored by Republicans have viewers that rank higher in terms of political engagement and influence.

— While Republican-preferred networks tend to rank higher on political engagement, certain Democrat-favored channels have the most politically intense viewers. In every market, either MSNBC or CNBC had the highest levels of political engagement among viewers — often by large margins. (MSNBC was strongly favored by Democrats in every market, while CNBC was favored by Republicans in Chicago only.)

— In every case, Fox News was the network most favored by Republicans. In every market except Chicago and Detroit, Fox News has the highest voter turnout among GOP-favored networks. (In Chicago, voter turnout is higher among CNBC viewers; in Detroit, the Golf Channel has higher voter turnout than Fox News.)

— As expected, networks generally thought to cater to young people skew Democratic but have very low voter turnout. In nearly every case, viewers of MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central showed strong support for Democrats but hovered at low-to-average voter-engagement levels.

— Networks considered to be targeted exclusively towards women are almost universally favored by Democrats. Lifetime, Oxygen, WEtv, and SoapNet generally skew heavily to the Democrats, but almost always have low-to-average voter engagement.

The Corner

The one and only.