Democratic Debates Failed to Capture the Attention of Swing Voters – But Have Captured Some Key Demographics for Advertisers, According to New 605 Data

NEW YORK--()--605, an independent TV measurement and analytics firm that offers advertising and content measurement, full-funnel attribution, media planning, optimization and analytical solutions, today released a report based on its analysis of TV viewership data gathered before, during and after the Democratic Party’s presidential primary debates held in Detroit, Michigan, on July 30-31, 2019.

The report utilized data from 605’s full footprint of 21 million U.S. households, across all 210 DMAs, to analyze viewership of the Democratic Debates against several factors at the household level, including: political affiliation, location within key swing states, income level, purchasing habits and related TV viewing behavior.

The findings suggest that the Democratic primary debates struggled to capture the attention of swing voters and that competing programs, from The Bachelorette to MLB Baseball, drew viewers away from the debates. Those who did tune into the debates were more likely to be past primary voters with higher levels of education.

Additional key observations include:

  • While every campaign is talking about swing state voters, very few of these voters are watching the Democrats on the debate stage. Although households in key swing states1 were 1.03x more likely than the average household to tune into the debates (for an average of 115 minutes) they were even more likely to tune into The Bachelorette finale, which aired at the same time. The same audiences were 1.24x more likely to watch The Bachelorette exclusively, opting out of the debates entirely, and 1.36x more likely to watch a combination of the two programs.
  • Advertisers came out on top during the middle of debate programming. Advertisers during the third commercial break on night one – including Lexus and Verizon – and advertisers during the second break of night two – including the Alzheimer’s Association, Liberty Mutual and – enjoyed spots with the highest audience reach and retention, according to 605’s second-by-second tuning data. Based on 605’s demographic data, these brands were successful in reaching educated, higher-income American consumers.
  • Debate viewing behaviors varied across party lines. Within key swing states, the data showed an interesting divide in households that were affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties. Households containing only Democrats were 1.45x more likely than households containing only Republicans to watch 15 or more cumulative minutes of the debate. Households containing only Republicans were 1.36x more likely to watch only The Bachelorette.
    Meanwhile, households containing a registered mix of both Democrats and Republicans were 1.22x more likely than average to watch 15 or more cumulative minutes of the debate – but even more likely (1.36x) to watch The Bachelorette instead.
    Interestingly, households containing only Republicans within swing state Obama-Trump counties were slightly more likely (1.06x) than average to watch the debate. Republicans that did tune in from these key counties could be paying attention to Democratic candidates as they consider their options for the upcoming 2020 election.
  • Other programming pulled attention away from the debate, and audiences were more interested in learning who would be the recipient of The Bachelorette’s final rose. Among all households in the 605 TV footprint, viewers were tuned into a variety of other programs beyond the debates. While some shows – such as The Bachelorette, which was airing a finale, and MLB baseball – have extremely widespread audience appeals, other popular programs running simultaneously to the debate included America’s Got Talent on NBC and The Ingraham Angle on Fox News. This suggests that the debate was not enough of an event to disrupt viewers’ regular viewing schedules.
  • Post-debate viewing habits varied by partisanship, education, and income level. Of the viewers who remained tuned into CNN following the debates, 12.8% were Democrats, whereas a slightly smaller percentage (9.8%) were Republicans. Of the Democratic households that made it to the end of night one of the debates, 12.1% were watching analyses on MSNBC within six minutes compared to 2.5% of Republican households that also went to MSNBC within the same timeframe.
    • Of the Republican households that made it to the end of the first night, 16% were watching analyses on Fox News within six minutes. They were joined by 2.5% of Democratic households.
    • Of the low-income (less than $50,000 annual), non-white households that watched the debates to the end, 7.5% of them tuned into MSNBC while 5.4% opted to go to Fox News.
    • Additionally, of the non-college, white households that watched to the end, 11.2% remained on CNN, 8.7% chose Fox News, and 5.8% opted for MSNBC within 6 minutes of the debate concluding.

“Through our access to real-time, deterministic data with third-party matching, 605 can go above and beyond simply reporting viewership numbers,” said Gaurav Shirole, Senior Vice President, Client Analytics & Product Strategy at 605. “The insights we have gathered from these debates are already helping to inform our advertising partners and clients by identifying ways to maximize the impact of their ad spend, and by offering a more focused analysis of the audiences they are reaching.”

This robust dataset, combined with unique analytical capabilities, is valuable to 605’s clients and partners, offering a look beyond sales attribution to all factors in full-funnel measurement – including insight into brand awareness, perception and favorability. Further data from the report on the 2019 Democratic Debates reflects that highly-indexed debate viewers were:

  • 1.36x more likely than the general population to donate to health institutions
  • 1.21x more likely than the general population to have an interest in health and fitness
  • 1.05x more likely than the general population to be homeowners
  • More likely to be high income and 1.62x more likely than the general population to be upscale buyers

605 works to help brands find the right audience for their products and guide advertising agencies’ efforts to discover the most relevant consumers so that creative, targeting and planning are effective and provide real ROI. 605 also works with content providers and can help programmers demonstrate to advertisers that TV content can deliver relevant audiences more effectively.

For more information about the report’s methodology and conclusions, interested parties can reach out to 605 here.

Report Methodology

605 ties processed viewership events to content metadata (identifying the programs and advertising that aired during the viewing) and custom metadata (which candidate was on-screen during tuneaway moments) from data partners. The households are matched, via a SafeHaven, to person and household level consumer data. For client engagements, this often includes CRM behaviors.

For this analysis, the households were matched to licensed political data, including information from voter files about party registration and voting history.

About 605

605 is an independent TV measurement firm that offers advertising and content measurement, full-funnel attribution, media planning, optimization and analytical solutions on top of our 100% deterministic TV viewership dataset covering more than 21 million US households across all 210 DMAs. Our multi-source viewership dataset offers whole-home TV viewing visibility by combining the best attributes of set-top-box and ACR data. 605 is unique in that our multi-source viewership dataset supports 100% deterministic audience data activation at the household level while being reportable second by second with currency grade national and local projections methodologies, all privacy compliant.

605 does not buy nor sell media. We partner with brands, marketers, researchers, TV networks, TV distributors, local broadcast groups and agencies to shift the TV targeting and measurement conversation from age and gender to the actual KPIs that drive brand performance and return on ad spend from media investments. 605 offers unparalleled deterministic data activation leveraging our 21 million households to activate any dataset, large or small, on TV to support high-resolution measurement.

Backed by Dolan Family Ventures – the same family that developed prominent media and entertainment companies such as Cablevision, AMC Networks, HBO, MSG, Radio City Music Hall, News12 and more – 605 was formed through the acquisition of Analytics Media Group in 2016 – an early pioneer in the field of TV data analytics in Silicon Valley. The team, which combines leading cable and network executives with prominent data scientists and engineers, focuses on transforming media planning, selling, measurement and attribution solutions.


1Key swing states were defined by this study as: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.



Edward Ruddy, Sloane & Company

Release Summary

605 today released a report based on its analysis of TV viewership data gathered during the Democratic Party’s presidential primary debates.


Edward Ruddy, Sloane & Company