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Radio & the Power of the Vote

May 9, 2018

According to the pre-election polls, Roy Moore should have been the next U.S. Senator from Alabama. Regardless of the scandals, public outcries, and missteps, Moore was still highly favored to win. Yet two percentage numbers changed that, and caused a ripple effect that has everyone on notice: 5 and 2.

5% is the increase of the African American turnout rate for this election as compared to the
2016 presidential elections, where Donald Trump won Alabama by 63%. 2% is the increase of the African American turnout rate in 2017 as compared to the 2012 presidential election, when President Barack Obama was on the ballot. Of the 29% of African Americans who came out to vote in the special election, 96% of them went with Democratic Candidate Doug Jones. This small increase in African American turnout flipped 13 Alabama counties from Red to Blue, resulting in the election of a Democratic Senator from Alabama for the first time in 25 years.

According to the Brookings Institute, in key 2018 mid-term swing states cities in Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia, African Americans make up 50.9% to 83.6% of the total population. In cities within deep red states, like Mississippi and Tennessee, they make up 63.9% to 80.7% of the total population. These potential African American voters, if properly activated, could make or break any candidate’s path to victory or any proposition’s path to becoming law.

So let’s say you’re candidate X; how do you reach the African American demographic in an effective way? Well, according to the Nielsen 2017 State of the Media report, 93% of African Americans above the age of 18 are reached by radio – that’s over 32 million African Americans reached on a weekly basis. That’s higher than smartphones, PCs, or tablets, which are dominated by social media and its echo chamber. Radio can be the tool that would allow your candidate to speak directly to the voters, no matter where they are, in a clear and concise tone. It has the ability to change a generic 30-second ad into a fireside chat that can address the needs of the African American community and the ways your candidate can help them directly. That is more powerful than any 280-character tweet that would get lost in the political shuffle.

Research Director, Inc. uses tools and resources that could show a candidate how your stations can deliver a message tailored to the African American Adult 18+ community. Tools such as Nielsen’s Tapscan program could show specific districts that have higher amounts of African American Adults 18+ as compared to the overall market. Nielsen’s TapWeb program would also allow a candidate to see which of your radio stations have a higher reach of African American Adults 18+ on a daily or even hourly basis. It would allow a candidate to pinpoint which stations they should buy and when their ads should run to reach the most people. With Nielsen’s Scarborough program, they can learn more about whom their potential voter is, if they are registered to vote, what political party they’re affiliated with, whether they own a small business, or what they are planning to do in the future. Research Director, Inc. has effectively mastered each of these programs and can create political presentations for key demos. No matter where your candidate is or who your constituents are, our presentations can help you demonstrate which stations have the registered voters that care about the issues you’re fighting for and the potential voters that will follow.

Although I’ve spent this blog talking about how to use Radio to target African American voters to change the outcome of elections, this logic applies to all radio formats and their listeners. Radio can activate voters and sometimes doesn’t take many votes to change the outcome of an election.

For example, if it comes down to the two frontrunners in Georgia’s gubernatorial election, Republican Candidate (and Lt. Governor) Casey Ceagle and Democratic Candidate Stacey Abrams, the race could be decided by a slim margin of victory. If that’s the case, Radio could bring about the 2% or 5% turnout increase that could change history.

-Justin Smith, Research Assistant


Perry, A. (2018). Alabama is a precursor to the black vote’s value in 2018 and 2020. Brookings.
Published 13 December 2017, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2017/12/13/alabama-is-a-precursor-to-the-black-votes-value-in-2018-and-2020/

Perrus, S. (2017). State of the Media: Audio Today 2017 (pp. 2-3). Nielsen Audio.

Burlij, T. (2017). The 7 most revealing findings in the Alabama exit polls. CNN.com.
Published 13 December 2017, from https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/13/politics/revealing-alabama-exit-polls/index.html

Campoy, A. (2018). “Black voters turned out” isn’t the full story of Alabama’s surprise Democratic win. Quartz. Published 13 December 2017, from https://qz.com/1155777/alabama-special-election-how-democratic-voters-turned-out-in-a-red-state/