A recent MediaVest study found that 58% of voters are paying more attention to the primaries compared to 2004--and nearly 80% of people, who identify themselves as liberals, in particular, are paying more attention.
MediaVest says cable networks that seem to identify with moderate and liberal voters are gaining. CNN is 111% higher in prime-time ratings in the first quarter 2008 versus the same period a year ago. MSNBC is up 58%.
Conversely, Fox News, identified as luring conservative and Republican voters in the survey, improved just 20% in the first quarter. That said, Fox's ratings have been higher than CNN or MSNBC for some time. So the numbers are working off of a low base.
Still, MediaVest says conservative voters are not as engaged with Fox News, which had heightened voter interest in the 2000 and 2004 elections.
MediaVest warns that Democratic and liberal interest in the election could drop off quickly--and ratings on cable networks as a result--if voters become increasingly polarized around either Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama.
Right now, 20% of liberal voters are polarized around their candidates--which means if their candidate isn't nominated in August, their interest in media election coverage would drop considerably.
The study also noted that supporters of Sen. Obama would likely increase their media use, in reference to election coverage, if he were to win the party nomination. The score was a 137 index, which means 37% above average. Sen. Clinton's supporters tallied a 114 index in this regard.
But supporters of Sen. John McCain wouldn't be as interested, according to the study, in increasing their media use. Those supporters came in way below average, earning only a 62 index.
Television is still the dominant media choice--a 132 index, according to the survey. Internet use is far below average, at a 78 index.
MediaVest polled a nationwide sample of 1,174 registered voters over a five-day period, February 28 to March 4, 2008.