Marketing is almost always targeted at a particular audience. That's why you don't see sugary breakfast cereal commercials during a cop drama or life insurance ads during episodes of Glee. Political marketing is no different, and recently the Conservatives purchased advertising time during the Super Bowl and on French-language television during Montreal Canadiens games. The choice was no coincidence.
Looking at recent polling tells us a little about the demographic profile of the average voter. While a New Democratic supporter tends to be younger and is more likely to be female, a Conservative voter is older and more likely to be male.
Roughly 56 per cent of Tory voters are male and 41 per cent are over the age of 55. Another 34 per cent are between the ages of 35 and 55 while only a quarter of Conservative supporters are under the age of 34. This contrasts most starkly with the average Green Party voter, 56 per cent of whom are women. More than half are under the age of 34 while only 16 per cent of Green supporters are over 55.
New Democratic and Bloc Québécois voters share a similar demographic profile. About 55 per cent of their supporters are female, while the largest cohort (40 per cent) for the NDP is under the 34. The remaining 60 per cent are split evenly between middle-aged and over-55 voters.
The Liberals, however, are almost evenly split between both genders and the three age groups. About 51 per cent of Liberal voters are women, while 35 per cent are between the ages of 35 and 55. One-third are under the age of 34, while 32 per cent are over the age of 55. This makes the demographic profile of the Liberal voter harder to pin down.
But if a political party wants to reach their supporters and those most likely to consider supporting them, how should they go about it?
Take the typical Conservative voter, a man over the age of 55. Based on the research conducted for the Canadian Media Directors' Council and the Television Bureau of Canada in 2009 and 2010, he can best be reached through the television or on the radio. He is more likely to listen to AM radio than a woman, and is also more likely to be reached over the air in the afternoon or evening. Though he watches about two hours of television less than a woman every week, he is just as likely to have watched TV at some point in the last 24 hours. And as an older person, the typical Conservative voter likely watches more television (28.6 hours per week) and listens to the radio for longer periods (20.8 hours per week) than anyone else.
The typical Conservative voter can also be reached through newspapers, as more men than women (76 to 71 per cent) read a newspaper in any given week. Older Canadians also spend more time (4.8 hours per week) reading the newspaper than younger people. But attempting to reach a Conservative voter on the Internet is likely not the best use of resources: While 73 per cent of men use the Internet on any given day, only 50 per cent of people over the age of 55 do. They use the Internet less (9.3 hours per week) than anyone else.
Though Liberal voters do not fit into any one demographic category easily, the typical Liberal voter tends to be a woman between the ages of 34 and 55. Unlike men, women tend to listen to radio in the morning, and are far more likely to listen to FM stations.
This typical Liberal voter is less likely to have read a newspaper than her older Conservative friend, but is more likely (36 to 27 per cent) to have read a magazine or used the Internet in the last 24 hours, and spends more time watching television than she does with any other medium. But as Liberal supporters tend to be split among all walks of life, it is more difficult to target them specifically.
Not so for the average New Democrat, who is a woman under the age of 34. She is least likely to be reached over the radio, and definitely not via the AM band as that represents only 12 per cent of her listening time. Only 31 per cent of people her age read a newspaper on any given day, and spend less than an hour per week doing so.
She can be reached, however, on the Internet. People her age tend to spend about 23.5 hours per week on the web, more than any other age group, and about 86 per cent use the Internet daily. And though people her age spend less than 20 hours per week in front of the television, 80 per cent of them do turn it on at some point during the day. But that is less than older Canadians.
Political parties are aware of these factors. The television ads featuring the Prime Minister working late into the night were not aimed at young voters, just as the Liberal " Pucapab" YouTube video was not meant for grandma and grandpa. In politics as in business, finding the right audience for an advertisement can be just as important as hitting the right tune.
Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com