In Republican years and Democratic years, local television stations have always emerged as winners. The 2014 midterm election delivered an estimated $2.4 billion to local stations, as candidates and political action committees bought time for federal, state and local races.
As stations gear up for a presidential election cycle—and the cash it will bring—a new report released Monday by the Pew Research Center suggests a sea change ahead that could send much of that ad spending to social media. "When it comes to where younger Americans get news about politics and government, social media look to be the local TV of the millennial generation," said Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew.
The report, Millennials and Political News, was based on an online survey of nearly 3,000 people. Millennials reported little interest in following their parents' habit of turning to local television for political coverage—and the advertising that traditionally fills commercial breaks in election years.
Sixty percent of baby boomers trust local TV for political news, but the same percentage of millennials opt for Facebook. That shift presents challenges for campaigns and elected officials, as well as for advertisers and station groups.
"We are only beginning to understand the complex interactions of personal choice, friend networks and algorithms in the social media space," said Mitchell. "As the research continues, these data suggest there are fundamental differences in the ways younger and older generations stay informed about political news."