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Online Political Advertising Gets a Sharp Bump Over 2008

Internet closes in on television as primary source of information for prospective voters

Research firm Borrell Associates in March estimated that US political ad spending on the internet would total $159.2 million this year, thanks to all of the attention being paid to the presidential race. While that figure represents only 1.5% of total political ad spending this year, it’s also a massive 617% increase from the $22.2 million the firm estimated was spent on online political ads in 2008.

This change makes sense in the context of the results of an April 2012 online survey of US online adults conducted by Burst Media. The poll found that 27.7% of likely voters got their information about candidates and causes primarily on the internet, a 10% jump over 2008. In fact, the internet was only slightly behind television, which was the top channel where likely voters got most of their information, at 28.3%. Interestingly, independent voters showed a much higher affinity for the internet over television, while Democrats and Republicans used the two channels roughly equally.

Likely male voters showed a special preference for the web—34.7% said the internet was their primary means of getting political information, vs. 21.2% of women. For their part, women favored television, with 31.7% getting most of their political information through that channel, compared with 24.6% of men.

Overall, news websites were the most commonly tapped resource for those looking for political information online; 47.7% of likely voters used them. But news sites were especially important among those ages 55 or older, with 53% of respondents from this group relying on them. Voters ages 18 to 34, no surprise, were significantly more likely than those ages 35 or older to visit Facebook or YouTube for political information.

Almost one-third of likely voters who had seen an online ad clicked on it. But Republicans were significantly more likely than either Democrats or independents to click an online ad—42% of members of the GOP said they had done so, compared with 34% of Democrats and 24% of independents.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Privacy Concerns Remain for Location-Based Service Users” and “Usage Diversifies as Mobile Uptake Grows in Germany.”

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