Radio's very first day was all about politics. On November 2, 1920, the day radio was born, the inaugural broadcast featured up-to-the-minute returns from the presidential race between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox. Ninety-five years later, a new study by media research giant Nielsen, shows radio remains a powerful tool to help candidates win elections.
According to Nielsen, "While political campaigns on the left and right are looking for opportunities to showcase the merits of the current contenders, new research shows that radio delivers much more than just chatter about the candidates: It can deliver the voters to the polls. In fact, combining voter data with listening habits can be a key way for candidates to connect with specific voting segments."
Nielsen goes on to say, "This first-ever study of its kind revealed that radio’s local approach to programming means that local stations attract different voter types in each market, and that these voters migrate to different stations depending on the time of day." So, using Los Angeles, for instance, it is possible to see how listeners who are classified as conservative democrats radio listening habits shift throughout the day (copyright Nielsen 2015):
But that's Los Angles. So how can Maine candidates successfully use Portland radio to influence voters and win elections?
The stations of Portland Radio Group reach 255,400 voting-age people every week. But this audience comprises just about every type of voter possible. But by examining consumer research from Gfk MRI, a candidate can determine which station appeals to her best target. If a candidate is targeting middle-of-the road, independent voters, then research indicates that the listeners to a radio station such as Coast 93.1 (WMGX) are 23% more likely to consider themselves as middle of the road and 16% more likely to have voted independent in the past election.
On the other hand if a candidate is targeting political activists who turn-out on Election Day and vote Republican, than a station like WGAN would be appropriate. Research indicates that this station's audience is 120% more likely to have contacted an elected official during the past year; 52% more likely to show up on Election Day; and 60% more likely to vote Republican. Of course research is available for every type voter and every type of radio station to make sure a candidate's message reaches the best audience.
Radio Advertising: What Every Maine Candidate Needs To Know
Once a candidate for elected offices decides to use radio, there are some important things she needs to know:
- Radio stations are only required to sell time to candidates for federal offices such as the presidency or congress. Candidates for state or local offices should check with individual stations in Maine to see if they will be selling time to state and local candidates. To find out if the stations of Portland Radio Group are selling time to local candidates click here.
- If a radio station accepts advertising from one candidate in a particular race, then the station must allow all legally qualified candidates for the same race to advertise as well.
- For a state or local candidate, a radio station may limit the number of commercials she can buy; the times-of-day she may advertise; and the length each commercial can be. But, these same restrictions must apply to all candidates running for the same office.
- During the 45 days prior to a primary election and 60 days prior to a general election, a legally-qualified state or local candidate is entitled to pay the lowest-unit-rate for the class of time she is purchasing. Radio stations are required to furnish these rates and a description of the different classes-of-time upon request. The 2016 political windows in Maine are January 20-March 5 (Repulbican Caucuses); January 21-March 6 (Democratic Caucuses); April 30-June 14 (Maine Primary Elections); September 9-November 8 (General Election).
- Once a candidate decides to buy time from a radio station, she will be required to complete a disclosure form that the radio station will provide. This form will ask for detailed campaign information including party affiliation and the name of the treasurer of the candidate's authorized committee.
- The candidate must pay for all advertising in advance.
- Every commercial must make clear who has paid for it. This must be done in strict compliance with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. Here are acceptable ways to do this
- If the commercial is paid for directly by the candidate or the candidates election committee: "Paid for and authorized by Mary Jones" or "Paid for and authorized by the Committee to elect Mary Jones"
- If the commercial is paid for by a candidate's agent: "Authorized by the candidate and paid for by Bill Smith, treasurer" or "Authorized by the candidate and paid for by Bob Brown, Chairman of the committee to elect Mary Jones"
Finally, radio stations are not required to produce commercials for candidates. Like all the other rules, however, if a station produces a commercial for one candidate in a race, then the station must produce commercials for all candidates in that race.