What We Learned About Targeting Republican Primary Voters from the First Debate

The first Republican primary debate provided key insights on how viewership continually evolves  – and highlighted the most effective ways to reach Republican primary voters. Linear TV has dominated previous election cycles in years past. In 2024, voters have more ways than ever to access election-related content

One piece of evidence pointing to changing viewership habits: findings from an AdImpact study on the first Republican presidential primary debate this cycle. The key takeaways:

  • 14.2 million viewers tuned in.
  • Of TVs tuned in for at least 15 minutes, 72% watched on cable and 28% on a variety of apps, with YouTube/YouTube TV the most prevalent.

This data tells another chapter of a story that we’re currently in the middle of: more and more people are consuming content on streaming platforms as opposed to on cable television.

While this trend towards increased streaming viewership is promising, there are other factors to take into account before organizations slash linear TV campaigns. 

Although 28% of viewers streamed the debate rather than watching on cable, this does not mean those people exclusively stream. These same viewers can likely still be reached on linear TV. Specifically for Republican primary voters in the 55-65+ age demographic, our TV reach is over 90%

So, what to make of this data?

  1. We can absolutely hit viewers on streaming – and in the case of the first Republican debate, streaming was their preferred platform. 
  2. Linear TV still holds the crown with Republicans ages 55-65+ – but streaming can hit this demographic as well and provide air cover as we move toward the general election.

As an added bonus, some streaming platforms provide units that encourage additional engagement in the form of opt-ins using “Text XXXXX” banners and donor recognition chyrons.

In sum: If you leave streaming out of your upcoming advertising campaign, you could miss 30% of your voters as well as key engagement opportunities.

With added efficiency and higher engagement units, a mixed media approach between linear and streaming platforms is needed in order to effectively reach all Republican primary voters watching the debate. We can’t exclusively rely on linear TV to hit all primary voters and need to expand to streaming to hit the subset of users who are exclusively watching on those platforms.