40% of Likely Young Voters Say They Haven’t Seen Any Political Ads

Exclusive survey finds older respondents are more likely to see campaign spots

Nearly 40 percent of likely voters between the ages of 18 and 37 reported that they hadn’t seen any political advertising leading up to the Nov. 6 midterm elections. Getty Images

Television remains king of political advertising, according to new research from Adobe.

A new report commissioned by Adobe and provided exclusively to Adweek suggests that the older you are, the more likely you are to have seen a political ad—and that it’s more likely you saw that ad on television.

The reverse is true for younger voters, which could spell bad news for politicians campaigning to or relying on younger voters. The survey, which was conducted in September and October, found that many likely voters younger than 38 aren’t seeing political ads.

Nearly 40 percent of likely voters between the ages of 18 and 37 reported that they hadn’t seen any political advertising leading up to the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

The higher the age of survey respondents, the less likely they were to report that they hadn’t seen political ads: Only five percent of respondents 73 or older reported that they hadn’t seen any political ads compared to nearly 10 percent of respondents between 54 and 72 and 15 percent of respondents between 38 and 53.

Among all of the likely voters who said they had seen political ads, television remained the most common medium. For likely voters between 18 and 37 who did see political ads, nearly 25 percent said they saw them on TV, compared to 16 percent who saw political ads on websites and 16 percent who saw them on social media. More than 35 percent of likely voters 54 and older reported that they saw political ads on TV.

For the survey, Adobe considered both linear and non-linear television in the TV category.

The report surveyed more than 2,000 American adults nationwide, primarily through polls that appeared before video advertisements on their mobile devices.

An important caveat: The respondent pool is not nationally representative, and the data Adobe provided to Adweek skewed male and toward older respondents. Nonetheless, the information gleaned from the results highlights not just the continued dominance of television in political advertising, but the challenges political campaigns face when it comes to getting their messages in front of younger voters.

People who were between 20 and 36 in 2016 make up one of the largest eligible voting blocs in the country, according to Pew Research. Young people, though, are also one of the least reliable voting blocs; less than a fifth of adults younger than 30 voted in the 2014 midterms, compared to about a third of the total electorate. That’s a steep contrast to older voters, who generally vote at rates that more than double those of younger voters.

Because older likely voters watch traditional television more than younger likely voters, it tracks that television advertising has remained the bread and butter for political campaigns looking to maximize their ad spend. A September report from Borrell Associates, which tracks and forecasts ad spend, estimated that political ad spend on broadcast and cable television would reach $4.6 billion in 2018, compared to $1.8 billion political ad spend on digital media. And a recent Bloomberg analysis found that there were at least 1 million more political ads being aired on local television in 2018 than in the 2014 campaign season.

While digital political ad spend is slowly but steadily increasing, it’s still expensive to get ads in front of young voters, according to separate CPM estimates Adobe gleaned from aggregated and anonymized consumer data, social mentions and video ad impressions. Those CPM estimates found that young people between 18 and 24 were at least twice as expensive to reach as likely voters aged 55 and up. There were dramatic cost discrepancies even among those young likely voters: Republicans between the ages of 18 and 24 were more than twice as expensive to reach than Democrats of the same age group. Independents were the least expensive political affiliation to reach in the age 18-to-24 age range, based on Adobe’s estimates.

The data is especially prescient now that recent reporting has predicted a higher-than-average voter turnout of young voters in the upcoming midterms, which are less than a week away. Approximately 4 in ten young people between 18 and 29 said they would “definitely vote” in a poll from Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics released Monday, and voters between the ages of 18 and 29 have already cast more early midterm votes in several states than the total number of youth votes cast during the 2014 midterms.

@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.