Smartphones during the 2014 Campaigns

With new data illustrating the increased amount of cell phone usage that I discussed last month, it is important to look at how voters use their smartphones to access campaign information. (Fully 90% of American adults have a cell phone, and nearly two-thirds – 64% – of all American adults with a cell phone have a smartphone with access to the internet.)

With Americans relying more and more on their cell phone as their only telephone, there has been significant growth in the number of voters who use their smartphone to keep up with election related news and gather information about candidates running for office.

As the number of voters who opt-out of television and other traditional media climbs, a new Pew Research report conducted in late October 2014 shows that 28% of registered voters have used their smartphone to access election or political news. This is over a two-fold increase from the 13% of registered voters who accessed this information via their smartphone during the 2010 election.

This is especially important for reaching younger voters, as 43% of 18-29 year olds and 40% of 30-49 year olds have followed news on their smartphone. This trend will continue to grow as we move further into the 2016 election cycle.

The report also showed that the number of voters who follow candidates, elected officials, or political parties on social networks such as Facebook or Twitter has also doubled since 2010, with the most dramatic increases among voters age 30-49 and 50-64. The table below shows the rate of change among registered voters since 2010 in which voters follow candidates, elected officials, or political parties on social networks:

table 1

While the biggest users of social media are younger and more ethnically diverse, Republicans have kept up and even slightly surpassed Democrats in the percentage of voters who follow candidates, elected officials, or political parties on social media (see chart below). And, while conventional wisdom may lead one to believe Independent voters are less likely to be politically active on social media, their rates of social media following is in-line with their more partisan counterparts.

 table 2

Other research has shown that nearly half of all social network use is done via a smartphone – this makes social networks one of the best ways to contact voters who are hard to reach through more traditional methods (young voters and Hispanics, for example). In the 2016 elections, these rates should continue to increase, and campaigns must work to grow and strengthen their social networking connection with voters.

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