News & Politics

What Does Your TV Preference Say About Your Politics?

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Watching “Family Feud” in New Hampshire? You’re unwittingly tuning in to a different kind of feud, with duelling ads for Jeb Bush and John Kasich. If you flip to “Jeopardy” or the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” you might find Marco Rubio’s boyish visage beaming back at you.

Republican presidential candidates are trying something new — targeted television ads based on audience demographics. Data-mining organizations such as Deep Root Analytics are taking a dive into television ratings and matching viewers with likely voters to produce results at the polls.

“There are people that would say that TV exists to talk to everybody,” David Seawright, Deep Root’s director of analytics, told RealClearPolitics on Monday. “And then there are people like me who would say there are only a certain number of people who are going to vote, [and] of those only a certain number of them are likely to support me, and I should be talking to them specifically. It’s a fundamental difference.”

This sort of targeting allows TV ads to match the specificity of direct mail or telephone outreach. Instead of shooting ads into the boob-tube void and hoping for the best, campaigns can take a sniper’s aim and deliver their message directly to the target audience.

In 2012, President Obama’s re-election effort pioneered such a data-driven approach, boosting him to victory. After Mitt Romney lost that year, the Republican Party drafted an “autopsy of sorts,” the Growth and Opportunity Project, which urged campaigns to “pay the cost in order to get the payoff of data-driven media buying.”

In the 2014 midterms, Deep Root helped propel Greg Abbott to victory in the Texas gubernatorial race. According to conventional wisdom, the way to target seniors was to advertise on elder-skewing CBS network, but the Abbott campaign took a different approach, targeting ads across several nets in order to effectively reach sympathetic voters.

RealClearPolitics has a chart listing which TV programs various campaigns (and affiliated Super PACs) were and are targeting in Iowa and New Hampshire. Here is a brief taste of their New Hampshire insights:

Jeb Bush — “Fox 25 Morning News at 7,” “Family Feud,” and “Judge Judy.”

Chris Christie — NBC’s “Today Show,” “7 News at 6PM,” and “Fox 25 News at 6PM.”

John Kasich — NBC’s “Today Show,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Family Feud,” and “Judge Judy.”

Marco Rubio — “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy,” “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”

Donald Trump — NBC’s “Today Show,” “Good Morning America”

Wonder which political demographic watches the most popular cable show on TV: “The Walking Dead“? Chicago Democrats, probably.