What are the Viewcounts Saying?

In the 2015 Canadian federal and 2016 US presidential elections, YouTube viewcounts for party ads were closely correlated with the ultimate outcomes. In the Canadian election, the Liberals had a total viewcount of almost 10 million for their ads, while the NDP and Conservatives were both far behind, with total viewcounts of 2.4 million and 1.9 million respectively. In the US election, Clinton’s total viewcount was slightly higher than Trump’s until the crucial last week of the campaign, when Trump’s soared far ahead of Clinton’s.

What are the YouTube viewcounts, midway through the 2019 campaign, telling us? My key finding is that the Conservatives are ahead of the Liberals by a considerable margin. The Conservatives most viewed ads are:

  • “How did we get here? Not as Advertised,” a catalogue of Trudeau’s broken promises: 815,000 views
  • “Not as Advertised,” comparing Trudeau to Trump: 500,000 views
  • “Not as Advertised,” French version: 213,000 views
  • “Where I grew Up,” highlighting Andrew Scheer’s modest origins and promises to reduce taxes on the middle class: 441,000 views
  • “Deficit, Not as Advertised,” an attack on the Trudeau Government’s deficits: 127,000 views.

In contrast, the most frequently seen Liberal ads are:

  • “Choose forward,” the main Liberal theme ad: 50,000 views
  • “On Se Tient Debout. Pour vous,” the French version of the main theme ad: 214,000 views
  • “Strong Plan,” justifying carbon pricing, in the 4 provinces where it has been imposed (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick): total of 42,000 views.

In addition, there are various versions of the “choose forward” ad addressing different policy areas and regions which total somewhat less than the 50,000 views for the main ad.

The two main NDP ads both introduce Jagmeet Singh, with the French ad “Jagmeet se bat pour vous” (42,000 views) showing Singh without a turban and including more of his personal history than the English ad (“Different,” 5000 views).

There are some reasons to think that YouTube viewcounts are less indicative of popularity with the electorate now than 4 years ago. Parties are sending their ads to voters on Facebook and other platforms instead of relying on voters to find them on YouTube, as was the case then. In addition, the practice of buying bogus YouTube views to inflate the viewcount appears to be more widespread than in the past.

The CBC’s Canada Poll Tracker puts the Liberals and Conservatives within a percentage point of one another in terms of the popular vote. Nonetheless, if I were a Liberal strategist I would be concerned about what the YouTube viewcounts are saying. I will be commenting more about this in future posts.

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