The 2016 Election on YouTube: What Voters Want

The political climate in the US currently is intense. One unique aspect of this election is the tremendous role that social media has played throughout the process – as voters access more information from more sources than ever before. Prime example: while Sunday’s debate saw a 20% decline in TV ratings – there was a 40% increase in YouTube viewership (124 million viewers). And that was before Ken Bone entered the national conversation.

The Internet’s fascination with Ken (who generated more than 6 million views across 543 video uploads in the three days following the debate) is just one example of how the election plays out differently online than in traditional media. ZEFR analyzes election content on YouTube, including every video about the candidates and each political issues. By aggregating the data, the trends emerge because the content people choose to watch reflect what aspects of the election are of most interest. Looking at the data, it’s clear that potential voters aren’t turning to YouTube only for news – they are using it a resource to make sense of everything they are hearing and seeing, as the content around both candidates grows massively on a daily basis.

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Below are some key findings from ZEFR’s analysis of election content on YouTube:

  • Over the last six months, though Donald Trump has double the total views and engagements, both candidates see less than a 25% positive sentiment – the majority is negative to neutral.
  • Hillary Clinton’s viewership is on the rise – Clinton has made huge strides in closing the gap between the number of views.  In fact, she’s topped him in views for all but one of the last few weeks.
    • From February to early August, Donald Trump dominated weekly views, with Hillary Clinton besting him only once.
  • YouTube is a very difficult medium for candidates to control. On YouTube 99.9% of views are generated by people and other organizations posting content – not from the candiadtes themselves.  Those videos range from reuploads of late night clips, to news coverage to discussion/commentary around candidates and topics.

YouTube is the video platform where undecided voters are going to seek out information to make up their mind. Though candidates can’t control the content shared on YouTube, they can take advantage of the insights provided by technologies like ZEFR to make sure they understand the conversation, and can reach the right people with their targeted messages. Understanding what they are interested in, and acting on it, presents a huge opportunity for both candidates in the final push to the White House.