Political Season's Hard-To-Get Demographic: Low-Information Viewers

Current political voter query:    "What do you think of Sequestration?"

Scratching-head voter answer: "Sorry. I don't own any horses."

To be frank, the next two weeks of this rapidly expanding digital media world may come down to "low-information" U.S. voting citizens. In terms of a media plan, they are the new hard-to-get demographic which will result in massive media inefficiency.

("Sequestration" is a current political term, coined a year ago as a result of the U.S. Congressional budget agreement that would automatically start up massive U.S. government defense and domestic program cuts).

You may have heard of these people: the 5% or so "undecided" voters. They are "undecided" because apparently they don't have enough information…or are too lazy to get the right information…or, worse, aren't interested in getting any information about this year's presidential political process.



All this may sound strange in a world where this year’s presidential debates have pulled in around 60-70 million TV viewers on average -- at best, a little more than one-quarter of some 295 million possible total viewers.

Obviously, some 230 million TV viewers had other things to do like watch Major League Baseball playoff games, primetime dramas, "SpongeBob," or cable shows about tattoo parlors, storage businesses or hair styling shops -- or perhaps just gaze into space. The truth is many of these viewers -- and U.S. voters -- have all the information they need about who they want as the next president.

TV marketers for decades have worried about "light" viewers. Because TV continues to be the most powerful medium, the question is where do these "light TV" consumers go?

In part, those "undecided" viewers are modern day "light TV" viewers, hard to get, hard to figure out, and most of all hard to make a "sale."

So what you have this year this is a lot of expensive TV advertising really targeted at a small number of people  -- the undecided voters. For any marketer, you are talking about a lot of media "waste."

In this digital world, one would expect a lot better from a media plan. But not for this Presidential election. We can hope the next time around we'll get better political advertising buys -- saving our eyeballs and, most importantly, saving those big, fat moneyed donors the effort of finding their checkbooks.


3 comments about "Political Season's Hard-To-Get Demographic: Low-Information Viewers".
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  1. David Mountain from Marketing and Advertising Direction, October 24, 2012 at 4:46 p.m.

    I learned, first hand, how not all undecided voters are worthy of scorn. A moment of charity, perhaps?

  2. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, October 24, 2012 at 4:51 p.m.

    Nice post, David. In a way it's refreshing for me to remember that no matter how "critical" an election may seem to me, family, career, and life are really far more important. And, no matter who is elected our republic seems to keep moving along in it's grandly unusual (and irrational) way.

  3. Roy Fuchs from MFN, October 29, 2012 at 2:31 p.m.

    David - Interesting post. But it raises as many questions as it answers.

    For example, you cite 60-70 M TV viewers, whom you call "little more than one-quarter of possible viewers." Perhaps. But what percentage were they of registered and likely to vote people? Will we ever find out?

    Are low information voters only 5%? I would argue that there are more low information voters in July than October.

    Who are they? Are they those who are clueless (or nearly so) about the issues? Or are they people who cling to ideas that are factually dubious, if not counterfactual?

    What is the hurdle?

    Is a prospective voter who says "get the government out of my Medicare" low information, or simply factually ignorant?

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