Going deeper on the topics driving the 2024 US presidential election

Following our recap of the candidates and topics gaining viewership during the Republican primaries, we’re looking more closely at how election audiences are interacting with the issues now that the field has narrowed to two major candidates. Below we’ll cover engagement, device type, referral sources, loyalty, and Recirculation.

Election topics and engagement

In our last analysis we found that readers were spending more total engaged time with topics like Climate Change, Education, and Economic Policy than Crime, Abortion, or Immigration. In the almost two months since Nikki Haley dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination, the top topics by total engaged time have remained the same.

While Climate Change, Education, and Economic Policy remain the most engaging topics, it’s worth noting that the Israel-Palestine conflict saw another sizable spike in engagement on April 14 in the wake of Iran’s missile attack on Israel. Like Abortion and Immigration, which rise and fall with breaking news, this could prove to be a significant topic if the conflict continues through election day.

For the most part, the topics with the most engaged hours correspond with the topics that have the most articles. For another view of what’s engaging election audiences, let’s look at Average Engaged Time and the different picture it paints.

Though Abortion and Immigration are on the lower end of total engagement, they have the highest Average Engaged Time at around 47 seconds. Climate Change, on the other hand, has the highest total engagement but the second lowest Average Engaged Time of this group of topics. This shows that topics that necessitate daily coverage aren’t always the most engaging on a per article basis and that election readers might be looking for more coverage of other topics.

Election topics by device, loyalty, and referrer

Next, let’s look at where election audiences are coming from, what devices they’re using, and how frequently they return to a given site. For the most part, the breakdown of devices used to read about election issues mirror network-wide trends – around 75% mobile, 20% desktop, and 5% tablet.

When looking at the breakdown of visitor frequency, we see that the majority of the election audience is comprised of loyal readers. The topics with the highest percentage of loyal readers include Impeaching Biden, Immigration, and Abortion. The topics attracting the highest percentage of new readers include Transgender Rights, Social Security, and Healthcare.

When we look at referral sources, we see that most election readers are referred internally (45%), meaning they were already on site and recirculated to additional pages. The next highest referral source is Search at around 20%, followed by External and Social.

The topics that receive the most traffic from search engines are Education and Labor / Unions while the highest social categories are Transgender Rights and Crime / Guns.

Election topics and Recirculation

With internal traffic outpacing other referral sources, election content is a fertile ground for Recirculation. The most engaging topics don’t always lead visitors to additional articles, though. Crime, Immigration, Impeaching Biden, and the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine lead the way with a Recirculation rate of 23% or more while topics with more Average Engaged Time like Abortion and Healthcare have Recirculation rates under 20%.

How Recirculation compares to engagement

When we plot Recirculation and Average Engaged Time together, we’re able to see the types of articles already primed to create loyal readers as well as the ones that are a few optimizations away from becoming a springboard for further content exploration. 

On one side of the spectrum we have topics like Immigration. These articles not only have one of the highest Recirculation rates but also engage readers longer than most others, a recipe for loyalty.

On the other side are topics that do one or the other well but not both. Topics that have high Recirculation and low Average Engaged Time include Crime / Guns and Climate Change. Topics that have high Average Engaged Time and low Recirculation include Social Security, Healthcare, and Voting Rights. While some topics naturally have higher Recirculation rates than others, using well-placed links on popular articles can help avoid one-and-done visitors.

Takeaways from the research

1. Fewer articles can be just as engaging.

Though Climate Change has the most total engagement, it has the second lowest Average Engaged Time of this group of topics, indicating an opportunity to decrease output in favor of optimizing more impactful articles.

2. The same topics resonate differently on different channels. 

Education and Labor / Unions receive the most traffic from search engines while the highest social categories are Transgender Rights and Crime / Guns.

3. Some of the most engaging topics have the lowest Recirculation.

Articles related to topics like Healthcare and Voting Rights are engaging but are also more likely to be dead ends for readers. With strategic recommendations, you can get visitors deeper into your site and expose them to other topics and sections.

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