Analyzing Consumers’ Smartphone News Consumption Habits Could Aid in Forecasting Election Outcomes
Mobile app engagement on left-leaning news sites typically higher than right-leaning but during the election cycle this difference grew, particularly in swing states
DULLES, VA — Swing state smartphone users consistently spent more time on left-leaning news outlets than on right-leaning news outlets in the lead up to the 2020 election, according to data recently released by Global Wireless Solutions (GWS). In fact, nearly two thirds (63%) of all mobile news consumed in swing states ahead of the election (July 1 to November 3, 2020) came from left-leaning news outlets. This is revealing as that consumption of left-leaning news sources drops to just over half (57%) when looking at news consumed in all states (red and blue).
The data comes from GWS’ OneMeasure Consumer Panel, an opt-in consumer panel-based service that evaluates mobile app usage and content, mobile network performance, and consumer perceptions. The panel includes tens of thousands of consumers located across the U.S. and is calibrated to represent the demographic profile of the country’s population.
“Traditional polling measures for the Presidential elections have become more challenging. Whether it’s the fear of revealing their political interests or perhaps concerns over identity theft or some other reason, the public seems less inclined to provide their personal views to pollsters,” said Dr. Paul Carter, GWS Founder and CEO. “GWS’s anonymized opt-in panel provides critical insights into smartphone engagement – what apps are being used, for how long and by which demographic. Considering how much news is now consumed via their smartphones, actual usage data collected and analyzed by GWS could provide key insights to help improve election forecasting accuracy.”
GWS CONSUMER DATA ON MOBILE NEWS CONSUMPTION (JULY-DEC 2020)
- CNN outpaces Fox News in swing state smartphone usage YoY. Swing state smartphone users spent 27% more time daily on the CNN mobile app during the 2020 election cycle compared to the same time period in 2019; whereas time spent on the Fox News app only increased by 12%. When looking at the entire U.S., CNN consumption during the election cycle was 16% greater over the same time period in 2019 while Fox News was 18% greater.
- Left-leaning news outlets benefited from the first Presidential Debate. The outcome of the first debate appears to have driven smartphone users to spend even more time on left-leaning news outlets. Average daily consumption of left-leaning news jumped 34% in the week following the first debate (note: consumption of left-leaning news during the election cycle prior to the debate had minimal day to day fluctuations). On the other hand, right-leaning news consumption (which also had minimal fluctuations prior to the debate) experienced an increase of less than 1% in the week after the debate.
- Parler, Newsmax and other right-leaning news outlets saw huge post-election pickup. As a share of all major right-leaning mobile news outlets (Fox News, NY Post, Newsmax, Epoch Times, Breitbart, etc.), consumption of Parler news on mobile devices increased from 11% prior to election day (i.e., news consumed over 30 days prior to the election) to 43% once the new president was announced (i.e., news consumed over 30 days after the announcement). This spike made Parler the most consumed source of right-leaning news for that time period, surpassing Fox News, which fell from 74% to 32%. Newsmax ranked third post-election, but experienced a large increase too (from less than 1% to just over 14%) as the volume of Newsmax news consumed daily increased 73 times post-election.
- Georgia smartphone users leaned to left-leaning news outlets ahead of runoff election. Georgia smartphone users spent more than double the amount of time engaging with left-leaning national broadcast news outlets than right-leaning ones from July 2020 through December 31, 2020. Despite the claims of fraudulent elections and former President Trump holding campaign rallies in Georgia following the November election, Georgia smartphone users remained more engaged with left-leaning news sources in the lead up to the runoff election.
Dr. Carter adds: “Mobile phones are part of everyone’s lives; they’re with you most of the time. As a result, how individuals interact with their phone tells us a lot. So when we analyzed mobile news consumption during the election cycle (July – December 2020), there was a consistent finding throughout that time period: smartphone users spent more time engaging with left-leaning news sources. What individuals chose to engage with on their mobile device turned out to be a more reliable indicator of how they voted when compared to traditional polling measures that accounted for consumers’ answers at face value.”
To learn more about GWS’s One Measure Consumer Panel (OMCP), please visit https://www.gwsolutions.com/services/.
Methodology and Panel Description:
Data results are based on GWS’s OneMeasure Consumer Panel (OMCP). OMCP is an opt-in consumer panel that measures mobile app usage and content, mobile network performance, and consumer perceptions. OMCP collects consumer data on Android smartphones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever and wherever consumers use their devices.
OMCP panelists are primarily recruited from the top 41 metropolitan areas across the U.S. along with consumers located in less populated areas. The number of panelists per metro area depends on the area’s geographical size, but on average there are roughly 1,200 panelists per metro area. Total sample size of the panel ranges from 75,000 to 100,000 consumers. The demographic profile of panelists is calibrated to represent that of the U.S. population. All information collected is weighted to a user’s demographic representation of the U.S. population (aged 18+).
GWS’s OMCP data, unless stated otherwise, is collected and managed by Embee Mobile on behalf of GWS. Data is reported in an aggregated and anonymous fashion for market research purposes only.
Consumption data for this analysis was extracted from panelists usage of mobile news apps, news websites, and Youtube news sites. Swing states include: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin. Classification of left-leaning media outlets vs. right was extracted from Ad Fontes Media. In addition to using this source, GWS focused on larger media outlets in terms of media presence, popularity, and the amount of news consumed among panelists.
About Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.:
Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Global Wireless Solutions has set the industry standard for network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Its proprietary OneScore network ranking combines high-level network testing data with real-world network usage scenarios to make the results of testing relatable and easy to understand. Working with some of the world’s largest wireless network providers, GWS offers high-quality network engineering and consumer behavior analysis through a suite of benchmarking products, services and OneMeasure diagnostic apps that include drive, venue and in-building testing. At last count, GWS has driven 13 million data collection miles for its customers. For more information, visit gwsolutions.com and follow us on Twitter at @gwsolutionsinc.
Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.