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Can App Usage Predict Swing State Voting Patterns?

Matt Kaplan
Content Strategist
6 min read
Posted on August 28, 2020

In this year’s U.S. Presidential election, the candidate who wins enough of the key battleground states will win the election. In 2016, those key swing states with Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. And in 2020, those four states, along with Arizona, are widely seen as some of the pivotal swing states that will determine the fate of the election. 

How will those states votes? There’s no way for sure to know until Election Day in November, although polls can be helpful for prognosticating. 

But what if there was another way to guess? Could app usage be a helpful predictor? That’s what we wanted to find out. 

We recently ran a little thought experiment at InMobi, using our various mobile first-party data sources to see which apps were commonly used in swing states. We then compared those usage patterns with what we found in what will likely be solidly Republican and Democratic states.  

Here’s what we found. 

Overview of our App Usage Analysis 

Before we dive into the results, let’s talk about the process a little bit more. As our control group, we first looked at three representative Red states (Alabama, Utah and Indiana) and three representative Blue states (Vermont, Illinois and Washington). To further confirm how each of these six states are indeed leaning, we looked at the following criteria in particular: 

  • News app usage: In Red states, Fox News was more popular than CNN or NPR, while the opposite was true in Blue states. 
  • Bible apps/religious content consumption: There is overindexing usage of this kind of content in the Red states over the Blue states. 
  • NASCAR fans: People living in Red states were more likely than people living in Blue states to consumer NASCAR-related content on their mobile devices, although Utah was a bit of an outlier in this regard. 
  • Popular consumer brands: In 2019, Axios and Harris held a poll that looked at the most popular brands among Democrats and Republicans. We then looked to see whether these results align with our mobile usage data. 

Reviewing the Most Popular Apps in Swing States 

With this confirmation in place, we then looked to see how the five swing states we analyzed (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) aligned based on the above criteria. Here’s how these states are stacking up at the moment: 

  • Arizona is leaning Blue. Mobile device users in the state consume more content on CNN than they do on Fox News, and both religious apps and NASCAR are not popular. In addition, the state over-indexes on the Democratically-aligned consumer brands identified by Axios. 
  • Florida is leaning Red. Fox News is one the 30 most popular apps in the state, and religious content is consumed more frequently on mobile here than it is in solidly Blue states. The state also overindexes on the Republican-aligned consumer brands identified by Axios. 
  • Michigan is leaning Blue. NPR and CNN are more popular than Fox News. The state does over-index on the Republican-aligned consumer brands identified by Axios, although both Bible and NASCAR content isn’t as popular here as it is in Red states like Indiana and Alabama. 
  • Pennsylvania is leaning Blue. Not only are CNN and NPR more popular than Fox News, but religious content is not very popular at all in the state. 
  • Wisconsin is leaning Blue. While the state does over-index on Fox News over CNN, it also over-indexes on the Democratically-aligned consumer brands identified by Axios. In addition, both NASCAR and religious content are not very popular in the state. 

Most Popular Apps in Swing States 

One thing that became very clear in our analysis is just how different each of these states really are from one another. In particular, a state’s demographics and regionality (where in the country the state is located) really impacted what apps were commonly found in each location.  

Interested in reaching voters/consumers in these swing states or any other part of the U.S.? Reach out today to learn more about how InMobi can help. 

About the Author  

Matthew Kaplan has over a decade of digital marketing experience, working to support the content goals of the world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands. He is a passionate app user and evangelist, working to support diverse marketing campaigns across devices. He also previously covered politics and government for the Daily News Tribune. 

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