Can Earned Media Predict The Millennial Vote?

There are many aspects of the 2016 election cycle that make it one for the books. Candidates’ personalities and personal lives aside, digital, social and TV are once again playing a huge role in shaping the way voters—especially millennials—think and share their opinions about the election.

From memes and video to Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, platforms that cater to the outspoken are only fueled by outlandish candidate behavior. While this fantastic pairing of things to say and places to say them might be turning everyone into a critic, it hasn’t particularly swayed the children of the Internet to overwhelmingly back a particular candidate. As a result, this voting bloc is still up for grabs. 

According to BazaarVoice, more than half of millennials are more likely to be influenced by earned media. As with the last two elections, news outlets are determined to report on every single moment, incident or tweet of this election, making earned media an important part of the media strategy. Considering that one of the biggest contrasts between Trump and Clinton is just that—their media strategy (among many, many other things)—earned media could play a pivotal role in that final ballot. 



Clinton and Trump are both earning three to four times as much media attention as their predecessors, with much larger audiences tuning in to this year’s election as a whole. After the first presidential debate, Clinton snagged 46% of earned media mentions nationally, and Trump 54%, according to our real-time TV data.

So, while a CNN/Orc poll deemed Clinton the winner of the debate based on a poll of registered voters who watched the first debate, Trump clearly maintained his earned media advantage. At nearly 84 million viewers, millennials comprised nearly 30% of the total audience, so it’s safe to say that, whether streaming online or watching TV, this group was engaged. At nearly 84 million viewers, millennials comprised nearly 30% of the total audience, so it’s safe to say that, whether streaming online or watching TV, this group was engaged.

Why is this important? Because history has a way of repeating itself. Looking back at the first debate in the 2012 election, Mitt Romney was considered the hands-down winner, and by a wide margin, according to the Gallup Polls. He garnered more overall earned media mentions than Obama, and raised his poll ratings by two points in that debate alone. 

However, as the campaign wore on, Romney underestimated the power of social media, and its earned media impact with millennials. From Twitter and Facebook to Instagram and YouTube (a/k/a millennials’ power social channels), Obama’s pure follower count alone engulfed Romney’s and the current POTUS capitalized quickly in order to gain massive ground with millennials—who comprised nearly 19% of the electorate. The rest is history.

Now, Clinton and Trump are both earning billions of dollars worth of free media, with much larger audiences tuning in to their events. While Trump has the overall larger social presence, Clinton is not nearly as far behind as Romney was in 2012. And while Gallup did report that, like Romney, Clinton won the first debate, she didn’t gain the earned media traction he did across TV and digital. 

The reality may be that earned media results won’t align with the real outcome this year, with Trump’s affinity for negative headlines potentially counteracting his earned media monopoly. That’s not to say that Clinton can sit back on her earned media laurels yet. There are still millions of young voters who can potentially be swayed toward a major party candidate, considering 44% of millennials are currently supporting third-party candidates (Quinnipiac Poll, 2016).

The millennial vote was critical in the 2012 election, and even more so in 2016. Both candidates have benefitted from an incredible amount of exposure throughout the last 12 months, and while Clinton has made earning media look easy, Trump’s off-the-cuff, incredible comments have made him a media darling. And as we learned with Romney, a debate win can certainly translate to a jump in the polls, but digital earned media plays a prominent role in the final vote. The good news is that millennials are engaged. 

Many may still be undecided, but in the end, they just want the candidate who best represents their number one concern—themselves—making it extra important for this year’s candidates to, at the very least, not miss crucial earned media opportunities.

Next story loading loading..