July 09, 2004

In this Fox News versus Air America Radio world, one wonders: Do political leanings affect media consumption? A new survey from Scarborough Research--a firm that studies shopping, media, and lifestyle patterns of U.S. consumers--attempts to find out. One big takeaway: Independents, many of whom could be the very swing voters so highly sought after in this year's tight election, are 30 percent more likely than all consumers nationwide to use the Internet to visit a newspaper Web site or radio station site, while Republicans and Democrats are less likely than all consumers to do either.

The study determines the likelihood of these groups to engage in particular forms of media consumption and evaluates nuances in the Internet usage patterns and online shopping habits of self-described Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Scarborough surveyed 200,000 adults from August 2002 to September 2003 via telephone and booklet for the study.

"Independents truly stand alone as a group," suggests Howard Goldberg, SVP of radio sports marketing and out of home media at Scarborough. "They have different media habits."

According to the research, 24 percent of independents are more likely than all U.S. consumers to visit a broadcast television network Web site. In addition, while both Republicans and Democrats are less likely than all consumers to access a cable TV network site, 29 percent of indies are more likely to do so. Over 20 percent of Independents are more likely to visit Google, Citysearch,, and the Lycos Network. And the Web appears to comprise a significant portion of their media diets; in fact, they're 18 percent more likely than all consumers nationwide to spend 20 hours or more online in an average week, while Democrats and Republicans are less likely to do so.

Independents are willing to spend online, too. In fact, they are more likely to have spent $1,000 to $2,499 online in the past 12 months, 19 percent more likely to have purchased airplane tickets, 21 percent more likely to have bought books, and 22 percent more likely to have purchased music via the Web.

They are also more apt to access multimedia online. Indies are 27 percent more likely than all consumers to listen to Web audio, and 31 percent more likely to view Web video. According to the study, they are 22 percent more likely to use the Net to search for employment.

Although the variances are slight, there are some differences among these Democrats, Republicans, and Independents that stand out. For instance, when asked which online services they use, 38 percent of Independents responded that they go online to get news--as compared to 30 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans. Indies were also more likely to visit a newspaper site. Thirteen percent of them said they did so, compared to 10 percent of Democrats and Republicans.

In addition, 36 percent of Independents and Republicans access weather information via the Web, as compared to 27 percent of Democrats. Jonah Seiger, Founding Partner of political media planning and placement agency Connections Media LLC, finds such tidbits interesting--but wonders just how he'd apply them to his clients' media plans. The study, he comments, "actually is raising more questions than answers."

Independents tend to listen to audio and view video online more than their party-aligned counterparts. According to Scarborough, while 14 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans said they listened to Internet audio in the past six months, 20 percent of Independents did so. Fourteen percent viewed Web video, compared to 10 percent of Dems and Republicans.

Regardless, notes Seiger, such information wouldn't necessarily lead him to run in-stream ads or buy space on a radio station Web site.

Overall, adds Seiger, the study "reinforces the obvious--that we're in a period of shifting media consumptions. Voters of all stripes are turning to the Internet as a source for information about the news of the day."

By Kate Kaye
Courtesy of

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