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With Radio, Both Presidential and Down Ballot Campaigns Have Time to Reach Voters

6 minute read | October 2016

While much of the political buzz in the U.S. has been focused on the race for the White House, the presidential election isn’t the only game in town this November.

When it comes to competitive local races, party leaders and political pundits will be paying attention to what happens in Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania—three swing states. While these three states hold a great deal of weight when it comes to deciding just who wins the White House, they can also change the balance of power in Congress. The upside for candidates and campaigns looking to focus their efforts in the home stretch is radio—a powerful medium that reaches all voters, regardless of where their political affiliations lie.

Radio has the ability to reach more than 16 million voters across the major metropolitan areas of Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. When every vote has the potential to decide an election, campaigns need more granular data. Specifically, data that highlights party affiliation. To gain insight into where a state’s radio listeners are along party lines, Nielsen Voter Ratings recently matched voter registration data with data from Nielsen’s Portable People Meter (PPM) panelists in the major metropolitan areas for these three critical states. Adults 18+ were then divided into 10 different segments across the full political spectrum.

Campaigns Appeal to Florida’s Listeners

Florida’s cultural diversity within its population-rich metro areas is one of the key reasons why it’s a critical state for either party to win during any election year. The challenge for statewide and national campaigns is effectively and efficiently delivering the right messages across the five major metro areas: Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach. These metros account for more than 75% of the state’s population. The solution to that challenge, however, is radio. How? AM/FM radio reaches nine out of 10 voters in Florida in an average week.

As illustrated, Florida voters are voracious radio listeners. As an example,  radio in Jacksonville reaches 95.4% of Ultra Conservatives voters, the highest for this voter segment in Florida, compared with 86.4% of Ultra Conservative voters in West Palm Beach. Interestingly, Adult Contemporary is the top radio format for Republican voters in Jacksonville and for Democratic voters in Orlando.For candidates trying to win the state and reach voters across Central Florida’s Interstate 4 corridor, identified as the area’s biggest swing area, it’s critical for them to know where their voters are and what they are tuning to. In Tampa, radio has the ability to reach 93.4% of Independent voters, the highest in the state, while also reaching a high number of Super Democrats and Uninvolved Conservatives. Whether it’s a local, statewide or national candidate, reaching the right voter and encouraging voter turnout is key.

The Changing Ways of North Carolina

For 32 years, North Carolina had been a solid red state in presidential elections. However, the state’s unprecedented population growth, changing demographics and increased demand for a professional workforce has affected voter composition, and in 2008, the state voted Democrat for president.  While it reverted back and voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election, many political pundits still consider North Carolina a swing state. With major media areas in Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh, candidates have the unique opportunity to reach a changing a North Carolina electorate that for the past two presidential elections has voted for the candidate that best represents their views. Like in Florida, candidates who want to connect with specific voter segments in North Carolina can leverage the power of radio to deliver a message that is targetable and that resonates with the intended audience.In Charlotte, Urban and Pop radio formats reach the majority of Democrat voters that are under age 35 , while Adult Contemporary and Adult Hits reach most Democrats that are over the age of 35. Radio performs extremely well among Republican voters in Charlotte, as 91% of them can be reached by the medium, a higher percentage than Democrats (90.3%) and Independents (90.1%).When we look at Nielsen’s voter ratings data, it shows that the Greensboro-Winston-Salem area has a very diverse voter segment. Radio has the unique ability to effectively reach more than 93% of Super Democrats, Ultra Conservatives, On-the-Fence Liberals and Green Traditionalists.When it comes to overall reach, AM/FM radio reaches nine out of 10 voters in Raleigh-Durham each week, with its highest reach among Independent voters at 93.6%. Radio’s wide and far-reaching appeal goes beyond party lines and in the Raleigh-Durham metro it reaches 95.6% of Mild Republican and 95.5% of Left Out Democrats.

The Power of the Pennsylvania Suburbs

Pennsylvania has voted Democrat in every presidential election since 1992, and most polls have the state leaning blue in this presidential election. Nevertheless, Republicans have made efforts in the Keystone State to change the state from blue to red. For any candidate running a statewide campaign, it’s critical that they ensure that their messages reach key voters in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and these cities’ suburbs. In both metros, radio effectively reaches more than 94% of Democrats and more than 95% of Republicans. The medium is also effective in reaching at least 92% of Independent voters.In Philadelphia, Nielsen data found that one individual radio station has the ability to reach over half of a single voter segment group. When looking at the percentage of voters in each segment, radio is effective in reaching 97.3% of Mild Republicans and 94.6% of On-The-Fence Liberals and 95.6% of Super Democrats.A significant part of the Democrat to Republican voting shift in Pennsylvania is being driven by the more rural, western part of the state. Pittsburgh, which is the second-largest market in the state, remains Democratic, but is experiencing an increase in Republican voters. Radio presents a great opportunity for Democrat and Republican candidates to reach voters and deliver a message that resonates. In Pittsburgh, radio has the power to reach 94.6% of Ultra Conservative, 94.7% of Mild Republicans, while at the same time reaching 92.8 % of Conservative Democrats and 95.6% of Super Democrats.The bottom line is this: Local radio provides both the mass reach needed to quickly inform voters just before they cast their ballots, as well as the local appeal that campaign strategists need to win an election.


Nielsen Audio’s political study used Simmons Research’s PoliticalPersonas consumer segmentation and is available in 48 portable people meter (PPM) markets. Measurement took place in the Florida (Jacksonville, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach), North Carolina (Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham) and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) radio markets, utilizing PPM methodology during the second-quarter of 2016, among adults 18 and older.

Nielsen’s more than 75,000 PPM panelists provide a representative view of the metros and offers persons-level listing for key demographics based on metered listing behavior. Simmons PoliticalPersonas are matched to Nielsen panelists, which provides the ability to evaluate voter listening habits by age, gender, race and ethnicity based on Nielsen’s representative view of the market, including U.S. Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American segments. Simmons PoliticalPersona consists of 10 segments based on the voting-age population at the national and local level spanning the political spectrum from Super Democrats to Ultra Conservatives. Segments are differentiated based on political outlook, voting behavior and other attitudes and preferences. Experian developed the PoliticalPersonas segments using a proprietary model that utilizes a variety of data inputs including: 38.6 million voter records in 14 states, demographics and consumer behavior on 299 million consumers and 116 million households from Experian’s ConsumerView File, and consumer behavior from the Simmons survey.

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