(The article was co-authored by Matthew Jason.)
Much has been written over the last couple years (here included) about the diminishing importance of the print, both newspapers and material sent through the US mail, and broadcast media in political campaigns. Studies have consistently shown that more and more Americans are turning away from television and print media and turning to the internet to find information about political issues such as candidates for office, ballot propositions, and other public affairs issues related to the government. Does this mean there is now no reason to spend the money to air television and radio campaign ads or to seek the endorsements of local newspapers? If you are a Republican Candidate in California, the answer to this question is “NO” when it comes to television and radio.
On a recent survey of 600 highly likely June 2010 Republican Primary Voters, we asked a question which yielded some very interesting results. We asked, “which of the following is the primary source of information for you personally when it comes to political issues such as candidates for office, ballot propositions, or other public affairs issues being talked about by the government?” Surprisingly, “email and other internet sources” ranked fourth on the list at seventeen percent (17%). It ranked ahead of only “information through the US Mail” (9%). Finishing ahead of it were “television news and talk shows” (31%), radio broadcasts such as news stations and talk shows” (20%), and it was virtually tied with “newspapers” at eighteen percent (18%).
Results varied greatly based on the demographics of the voters interviewed. Hispanics (9% of Republican Primary Voters do fit into this category) put television way above everything else (48%). Men under age 50 rated radio at the top (34%). Seniors (voters ages 65+) did not rate newspapers on top, but 25% of them still chose newspapers as their top choice nonetheless. So who chose the internet? Twenty-eight percent (28%) of voters under age 30 chose the internet, and twenty-four percent (24%) of women under age 50 also made that choice, but it was not the first choice among any specific demographic group on the survey.
Does this mean Republicans need to quit focusing so much time and attention on the so-called “new media” world of blogs and YouTube? Absolutely not. If the party is to grow and reach a new generation of conservative minds, harnessing the power of the internet in political campaigns is crucial. However, it is also important to remember that successful campaigns are generally campaigns where the correct messages are targeted effectively to the correct audiences.
Thirty percent (30%) of likely Republican Primary Voters are over age 65, and a quarter of them (25%) still say the newspaper is their primary news source. A growing percentage a Republican Primary Voters is non-Caucasian (14%), and they rely heavily on the television (45% rank it as their primary news source). Younger men pay a great deal of attention to talk radio (34% of those under 50 put it on top). However, remember that twenty eight percent (28%) of those under 30 years of age are relying on the internet. If they are going to be a viable part of the Republican Party now and in the future, the “new media” sources are critical right now. Hopefully you see the point we are driving home. Harnessing the internet is very important, but it is also important to remember not to neglect the old stalwarts as well, especially if you are trying to win a Republican Primary.