November 2, 2012

Online Political Videos and Campaign 2012

Main Report

Online Videos and Campaign 2012

The material that follows in this report illustrates how voters of various political and ideological stripes are utilizing online videos during the 2012 election campaign. Unless otherwise noted, all findings are based on registered voters who use the internet. This survey found that 78% of American adults are currently registered to vote, and that 84% of these registered voters are internet users.

The types of political videos voters are watching online

In our survey we asked about six specific types of online video content related to the 2012 election campaign and found that, among registered voters who go online:

  • 48% watch video news reports about the election or politics
  • 40% watch previously recorded videos of candidate speeches, press conferences, or debates
  • 39% watch informational videos online that explain a political issue
  • 37% watch humorous or parody videos dealing with political issues
  • 36% watch political advertisements online
  • 28% watch live videos of candidate speeches, press conferences, or debates

All told, two thirds (66%) of internet-using registered voters have watched one or more of the above political videos online during this year’s campaign. Voters who have given “quite a lot” of thought to the election are especially likely to watch political videos online. Some 73% of these individuals have watched online political videos this election season, compared with 45% of those who say that they have been following the campaign less closely.

Beyond these differences pertaining to general interest in the campaign, voters of various political and ideological stripes tend to engage in similar levels of online political video consumption. Democrats and Republicans who go online are equally likely to watch online political videos, as are liberal and conservative internet users.

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Online political videos are also popular with internet users across a range of demographic categories, although younger users are more likely to watch them than are older users, and those with a college degree watch them at higher rates than those with lower levels of educational attainment. Some 71% of internet-using registered voters ages 18-49 have watched some type of political video this election cycle, compared with 64% of those ages 50-64 and 57% of those 65 and older. Similarly, 75% of internet-using registered voters with a college degree watch online political videos, compared with 62% of those with some college experience (but not a degree) and 60% of those who have not attended college.

How voters learn about online political videos

Some 62% of internet-using registered voters have had other people recommend online videos for them to watch related to the election or politics this campaign season. Specifically:

  • 40% have had other people recommend election- or politics-related online videos for them to watch by posting them on a social networking site
  • 36% have had other people recommend election- or politics-related online videos by telling them about them in person
  • 32% have had other people recommend election- or politics-related online videos by sending an email or text message

As with watching online political videos, there are few partisan differences when it comes to having others recommend online political video content. The one exception pertains to social networking sites. Liberal internet users who are registered voters are significantly more likely than moderates or conservatives to have had others recommend online political videos for them to watch on social networking sites. This high level of social media engagement among liberal voters is intertwined with the age profile of that ideological cohort, as younger adults are more likely than older ones to have had videos recommended to them on a social networking site this election cycle. Some 52% of internet-using registered voters between the ages of 18 and 49 have experienced this, compared with 33% of those ages 50-64 and just 15% of those 65 and older.

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Sizeable number of voters have encouraged others to watch political videos online, but very few have created their own

One quarter (23%) of internet-using registered voters have encouraged others to watch online videos related to the election or political issues this campaign season. Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to recommend online political videos to others, as are liberal and conservative internet users. Although recommending videos to others is somewhat commonplace, just 1% of internet-using registered voters have created their own online videos related to the campaign or to election issues—and this behavior is consistently rare across political and ideological categories.

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