CAB Releases Findings of 'Political Pulse' Research Study

-- TV, Newspapers & Word-of-Mouth Have Greatest Influence on Voting Decisions --  

-- 35% of Voters Make Their Choice within Last 14 Days of Election --

New York, NY – October 16, 2008 – The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB) released the findings of its newest research entitled the ‘Political Pulse’. This study, fielded in September was intended to gain a deeper understanding of the decision making process for registered voters, swing voters, woman and African-Americans. Additionally, the survey aimed to explore what effect the slew of political advertising has had on their decision, which media they rely upon for political information and determining when they typically arrive at a final decision regarding who to cast their vote for.

This proprietary study commissioned by the CAB and conducted by Insight Express had a primary objective to answer questions regarding consumer attitudes and usage across all media types. The data ascertained was focused on answering questions including:

  • Which media most influences your final decision when voting for a candidate?
  • What is the most relied source for voters to stay current on issues?
  • At what time frame do voters arrive at their final decision?
  • Do political ads on television help voters understand what a candidate stands for?
  • Has a political ad on television prompted them to visit a political website?
  • What impact do television ads have on voters?
  • What impact does direct mail political advertising have on voters?

Overall Media Findings

Some of the survey’s media highlights:

  • Voters claimed television (80%), internet (42%), newspapers (37%) and word-of-mouth (31%) ranked as the most likely sources they’d first learn about a political candidate
  • When asked a series of questions on direct mail 61% of respondents claimed they discarded the piece without reading it and another 53% stated they did not pay attention to mailings regarding politics
  • 51% of voters agreed with the statement that political ads on television prompted them to go to the internet for more information about a specific candidate
  • Just 10% of respondents claimed direct mail was the first place they learned about a candidate

National Election Findings

Respondents reported a heavy reliance on television when learning and making a decision about the candidate they wish to vote for.  Findings: included:

  • 35% of voters claimed they would make their final decision on a national candidate within two weeks November 4th leaving a large undecided group of voters
  • When making a final decision on a national candidate television (71%), internet (38%), newspapers (34%) and word-of-mouth (33%) had the strongest influence
  • 81% of respondents claimed “they typically noticed political advertising on TV”
  • 82% felt “cable networks were a good source for political information”
  • 71% claimed “political ads help me understand what a candidate stands for”
  • 65% stated they “usually found out about a candidate from TV advertising”
  • 59% felt they “learned more from TV ads than political mailers”
  • 58% of voters tended to “pay attention to political ads on my favorite networks”

Local Election Findings

Survey applicants were also asked a series of questions regarding their decision making process and the use of media for local elections. Findings included:

  • 56% of survey applicants stated they would not make their decision on a local candidate until the final two weeks before the election
  • 53% of respondents claimed newspapers were the first place they’d likely learn about a local candidate followed by word-of-mouth (39%) and television (35%)
  • 48% of voters felt newspapers provided the strongest influence to their voting decisions followed by word-of-mouth (45%) and television (33%)

Swing Voters

The Political Pulse study looked at individual voting groups as well. The findings on the attitudes of respondents who described themselves as swing voters included:

  • Swing voters relied more heavily on television (87%) more than 2:1 over any other medium for first learning about national candidates
  • In local elections swing voters turned to newspapers (54%), television (39%) and word-of-mouth (35%) to learn about candidates or issues
  • Swing voters also wait longer when making their final decision with 44% reporting they’ll wait until 14 days before the national election to select a candidate and 62% waiting until the final two weeks before deciding for the local slate of officials

Female Voters

Similar to swing voters women relied on television newspapers and word-of-mouth primarily for political information, however direct mail also scored slightly higher with this group.

  • 86% of those women surveyed claimed they first learn about political candidates or issues via television – more than 2:1 over other media
  • Women are less likely to use the internet to get information on candidates versus other voting groups
  • 76% of women said that TV influences their final decision more than any other medium

African-American Voters

African-American voters polled demonstrated some of the highest reliance on television for getting political information. Additionally, they responded more decisively in terms of the timeline for selecting a candidate.

  • 85% of African-American respondents stated television was their primary media for learning about candidates
  • Nearly 50% felt political ads did a good job reminding them about issues or candidates
  • 67% of respondents claimed they made their decision on a national candidate more than 14 days before the election and 61% at the local level

Research Methodology

The Political Pulse survey was a snapshot poll taken over one week in September using information from the 278 respondents from a randomly selected national internet panel. All survey respondents were registered voters with one of the three major party affiliations.


About the CAB

Founded in 1980, the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau ( is a television advertising advocacy group dedicated to providing advertisers and their agencies with the most current, complete and actionable media insights at the national, DMA and local levels.

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