Georgia’s upcoming Senate runoffs are tight enough that even slight shifts in voter behavior could affect the outcome of these races. To help shed some light on voter behavior in these intensely important, but difficult to predict races, I recently conducted an analysis for my firm, Rational360, that points to how Google’s restart of political advertising this week may shape what happens in the coming weeks.
Using a social listening tool popular with political shops, which relies on Boolean query strings of keywords and phrases, I analyzed millions of publicly available online posts across news articles, comments, blogs, forums, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram that discussed the runoffs. I then categorized and sorted this data in multiple ways, pulling out interesting trends and comparing them to posts around the presidential race prior to the election on Nov. 3rd. Here are some key findings:
1. Despite record spending, Georgia voters still cared more about Trump-Biden.
A look at the online conversation around the presidential election in August shows that users nationwide posted about the presidential election at a rate of 11.1 posts per-thousand-users on Twitter, Reddit, and publicly available forums and blogs. A similar look at the conversation around the Georgia runoff races in November revealed that online users in Georgia only discussed those races at a rate of 0.7 posts per-thousand-users, indicating much less public attention on the Georgia runoff races on a grassroots level.
2. Media pundits discuss the Georgia runoff races much more than voters.
Online users with backgrounds in journalism, communications, or politically focused media posted about the Georgia runoff races at a rate of 91.1 posts per-thousand-users during November. This was only slightly lower than the rate at which those same pundits discussed the presidential election before Election Day (100.5 posts per-thousand-users). This suggests there’s been a significant drop-off in voter attention around the Georgia runoff races that’s not happened among pundits.
3. Select user groups may provide a path forward for reaching Georgia voters at the grassroots level.
Despite the relatively low engagement rate across Georgia-based audiences, a few select groups demonstrated higher online engagement levels around the runoff races:
- Atlanta residents. More than 30% of posts that discussed the runoff races were from users based in the city of Atlanta. This was significantly higher than other major cities in Georgia, such as Savannah (2.4%) and Athens (2.3%). When accounting for the population size of each city, Atlanta still yielded an engagement rate more than five times higher than any other trackable city in Georgia.
- Young adults. Young adults who had previously engaged with family and parenting content accounted for 23% of all posts around the Georgia runoff election in November. For context, this group engaged with the Georgia runoff races more than users who had previously engaged with political content (21%) and business-related content (7%).
- Women. 57% of all posts around the Georgia runoff election in November were from users identified as female.
Given the narrow target audience in the Georgia runoff, YouTube spots are an ideal way to reach them — which means it’s likely a good thing Google has lifted its political ad ban.
To wit, YouTube is more widely-used by U.S. adults than other platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, according to an analysis by Pew Research. Moreover, the site also provides an excellent opportunity to reach urban and young adult voters, with more than 90% of adults aged 18-29 and more than 77% of those living in an urban area reporting using YouTube.
So what type of ads could the candidates place on YouTube? We’ll have to wait and see, but leaning on familiar faces is a tried-and-true strategy up until now. For instance, one of Jon Ossoff’s most recent ads highlighted an endorsement from former President Obama.
Similarly, Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s most recent ads highlight endorsements by President Trump and former Georgia football star Herschel Walker. Although there’s relatively low interest in the runoff races among grassroots audiences, high-profile endorsements may be more eye-catching than ads simply focusing on the candidates themselves and could provide a path forward for reaching grassroots audiences.
Davis Jackson is a Senior Digital Strategist at Rational 360, a full-service public affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. He specializes in social media analytics and online advocacy, and has led campaigns for political action committees, Fortune 500 companies, and national issue-based advocacy organizations.