Where Winning Candidates Find Voters Online in 2017

Edison Research's Infinite Dial gives you a map

Once upon a time, it was easy to communicate with the voters en masse. You sent them mailers, advertised in the daily newspaper, and ran advertisements on television and radio stations. Then they gave us the Internet and everything changed. It’s become more and more difficult for candidates to reach voters with mass communication. That’s why it’s essential to know where the voters are online – and why I’m going to tell you where to find them.


Edison Research recently released the results of its Infinite Dial survey for 2017. The Infinite Dial goes back to 1998 and surveys how and with what technology the American people are consuming media content. As a candidate for office, it’s vital that you know where the people already are when planning and budgeting your advertisements.

This year’s Infinite Dial findings provide very important information about online behavior – and much more. A closer look at its findings provides a good map of where you should be spending your time and money not only on social media but also in the traditional areas of radio and television advertising.

Where to Find the Voters on Social Media

81% of the American people are on Social Media. That’s about 226 million people. Many of them are your voters.

So where are they?

Well surprise, surprise, surprise as Gomer Pyle used to say.  Well, not really.

Facebook continues to be the social media platform where most of them are spending their time.

Across the United States, here are the top social media platforms Americans are using:

  • 67% are on Facebook
  • 34% are on Instagram
  • 30% are on Pinterest
  • 29% are on Snapchat
  • 23% are on Twitter
  • 22% are on LinkedIn

Facebook is truly leading the pack here. It’s dominance as the social media platform of choice increases when habitual use is factored in.

For 62% of Americans, Facebook is their most used social media platform.

Comparatively, Snapchat and Instagram are only the most used by 9% each.

Only 3% said they use Twitter the most.

After reading that data you might be tempted to focus only on Facebook and dismiss all other social media platforms.

Don’t do it.

Snapchat and Instagram are extremely popular with younger Americans.

Among Americans between the ages of 12 and 24, 39% use Facebook the most, 31% Snapchat, and 20% Instagram.

While half of this demographic isn’t of voting age yet, they soon will be. If you plan on being in politics for the long haul, Snapchat and Instagram may become the key to reaching this group as they grow older and vote more often.

Where to Find the Voters on Radio

Most of the time that I listen to the radio is while I’m driving. I can always tell when an election is approaching, as nearly all the ads during the breaks are political.

Is this an effective way to get your message out to the voters?

The answer is a bit mixed.

82% of Americans 18 and older listen to AM/FM radio as their primary audio source while in the car.

However, when not in the car, many are tuning into audio programming, in particular for listening to music, through online radio.

Here are the online radio channels Americans are tuning into monthly:

  • 32% are listening to Pandora
  • 18% are listening to Spotify
  • 13% are listening to iHeartRadio
  • 11% are listening to Sound Cloud
  • 8% are listening to Apple Music
  • 6% are listening to Amazon Music

Pandora is definitely dominating the online radio space.

40% of Americans listen to Pandora the most, 21% to Spotify, and 10% to iHeartRadio.

Also competing for traditional radio audiences are podcasts.

24% of the population – roughly 67 million people – are listening to podcasts monthly. And 15% – 42 million people – are listening to them weekly.

Among weekly podcast listeners, the average is listening to five different podcasts each week. It’s hard to see how an ad on AM/FM radio is going to reach this segment of the voting population.

Where to Find the Voters on Television

Television advertising may actually be the most difficult way for a candidate to reach the voters today.

Yes, we all see the constant barrage of ads from national and state campaigns, but are they effective for local candidates?

67% of Americans – 179 million people – have internet connected televisions today. That’s a huge number, but here’s the one you need to pay attention to.

58% of those belong to an online video subscription service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

If you’re watching movies or shows on any of those services, then you’re not seeing any commercials.

And guess what?  A lot of people are missing a lot of commercials these days.

48% of these subscribers used their service in the last week.  If you ran a TV ad, there’s a good chance they missed it.

Your Action Steps

Knowledge is always power. As a candidate, you now have the knowledge thanks to Edison Research and the Infinite Dial of 2017 to know where the voters are online.

Use this information to your advantage for your campaign.

Here are my top recommendations for any mass communication advertising you might be considering.

  • Dominate Facebook. Have a strong clear presence there and engage with the voters.  After all, they’re already there.
  • Learn Instagram and Snapchat. It’s probably not essential if your election is this year, but if you plan to be in office for a while, they are platforms you should become familiar with and establish a presence.
  • Target Your Radio Advertising. Since people are mostly listening to radio in the car, find out which stations and shows have the highest ratings during morning and afternoon drive times. Focus your ads there and at those times.
  • Explore Pandora Advertising. I haven’t used Pandora ads on any of my campaigns, but after looking at these numbers, it’s something I want to do. Since it’s an online service, explore targeting options before running an ad there, as you want to be sure you are reaching voters specific to your race only.
  • Avoid Television Advertising. I love a great political television ad, so this advice was hard to give. But Netflix and the other subscription services doesn’t make TV Ad buys a good idea for a local campaign.
  • Put Videos Online.  While I don’t recommend putting ads on TV, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing videos for your campaign. You absolutely should.  Facebook gives video higher priority and higher visibility than other content, so upload your videos to your Facebook page. And of course, set up a You Tube channel.  After all You Tube is the second biggest search engine in the world. If you want your voters to find you, then You Tube is a good place for your campaign to be online.

I hope you found this analysis of The Infinite Dial and what it means for your campaign useful.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  And if you have any tips for strategies for reaching voters online, you are definitely welcome to share them with us.