Tom Steyer’s overperformance in South Carolina Democratic presidential primary polls compared to his national numbers could be partly explained by his flood of television ads reaching a voter base that consumes television more than any other ad source and trusts broadcast news more than voters in other states.
A survey of registered voters in South Carolina conducted by broadcast trade association TVB found that broadcast and cable television had the highest reach of ad-supported media platforms, with 89% of voters in the state saying that they consumed broadcast or cable television.
That share was slightly higher among Democrats, at 92%, while it was 86% among independents and 89% among Republicans.
“South Carolina is the first primary/caucus state in TVB’s 2020 Voter Media Usage study. When compared with TVB’s 2018 Voter Media Usage study of 10 competitive midterm states (Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin), South Carolina voters indicate greater trust in local broadcast TV (81%) than the combined ten state result (78%) and a significantly higher expectation of fake news on Social Media (66%) versus the 10 states (59%),” wrote Hadassa Gerber, executive vice president and chief research officer at TVB.
Steyer is in third place in the RealClearPolitics average of South Carolina primary polls, compared to eighth place at 2.2% nationwide.
The billionaire former hedge fund king-turned-liberal activist has funneled more than $267 million of his own fortune into his presidential campaign, a large portion of which has funded a heavy advertising campaign in early nominating contest states.
He has spent $12.4 million on television ads in South Carolina, according to FiveThirtyEight’s ad tracker, far outpacing every other Democratic presidential candidate on the Feb. 29 primary ballot combined.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has spent $1.2 million on television ads in South Carolina, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has spent $520,000, former Vice President Joe Biden has spent $320,000, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has spent $140,000, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has spent $110,000.
The TVB survey found that broadcast television was the most popular news source in South Carolina, with 32% of South Carolina voters in the survey, including 34% of Democrats and independents and 32% of Republicans, saying that broadcast television is their primary source of news. Cable television was the second most popular overall, at 18%, followed by social media at 15%.
Local broadcast news was also trusted by South Carolinian voters with 81% overall. Seventy-six percent of Republicans, 91% of Democrats, and 77% of independents said that it is trustworthy, while social media was the least trusted at 37% overall, with 34% among Republicans, 44% for Democrats, and 28% for independents.
The TVB survey was conducted online from Jan. 27 through Feb. 13 and included 348 Republicans, 396 Democrats, and 210 independents.
Steyer said Sunday that he needs a top-three finish in South Carolina in order to maintain his presidential campaign through Super Tuesday and beyond.
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