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Fox News led presidential debate ratings in battleground markets, according to ComScore.

Election Night Campaign Battleground: Will Fox News Win the Media Advertising Race? 

Published on November 3, 2020

In one of the most polarized elections in history, the battle for values messaging could be winner take all.

Fox News and local broadcast affiliates have been election news channels of choice, according to the latest report from ComScore. The findings surprised even us, all politics aside. TV advertising buys are based largely on demographics. For marketers trying to connect with consumers’ values, though, the 2020 election has been a plebiscite on psychographics.

Television Draws Values Viewers

Fox News garnered the greatest audience during presidential debates, followed by broadcast network affiliates. Fox News drew Republican voters and many independents. While election coverage viewership was more diffuse among Democrats, they also tuned in local media affiliates in high numbers.

Comscore expected this trend to continue on Election Night as regional media outlets provide timely local results. Nielsen overnight ratings showed Fox News as the national winner on election night with 13.6 million viewers.

The findings have marketing implications beyond the election. Our research in The Purpose Report 2020 found GOP voters aligned on causes including family values, immigration control, national defense and traditional marriage. With Republican-leaning voters clustered around Fox News, ads could target a conservative values audience directly. Messaging Democratic-leaning voters was more challenging.

Attention to regional media may create opportunity on a range of issues. The battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin consistently saw some of the highest viewership levels during presidential debates and town halls. Viewers in these states were clearly engaged in election coverage. Especially for local and regional businesses, local media may provide a more strategic advertising spend.

Social Media Battles Fake News

Social media outlets have committed to helping ensure the integrity of the election. After facing intense criticism for their performance in 2016, they have taken steps to prepare for a mail-in voting surge and a final 2020 count that is unlikely to be known for some time after Nov. 3.

Facebook will state at the top of feeds that no winner has been chosen until results have been verified. After polls close, Facebook and Instagram will suspend political ads. Twitter will label candidate tweets claiming prematurely and root out bots that spread misinformation. YouTube will display fact-check information above election-related search results and below election videos.

Many news outlets covered the election online. The New York Times subscription-free live coverage, included a Daily Distortions live briefing on misinformation. Advocacy groups are emulating media coverage on their social media channels, with the NAACP producing a live stream on Facebook and YouTube.

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