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65% of Americans Will Use PC, Smartphone, Tablet While Watching Presidential Debate

by Employee ‎10-02-2012 02:59 PM - edited ‎10-05-2012 03:47 PM

debate2012vz.jpgNearly two-thirds (65%) of U.S. adults planning to watch the presidential debates on live TV will do so with a computer, smartphone, or media tablet, in their hands – according to an online survey of 2,319 Americans we conducted through Harris interactive.


Events like the presidential debates are a great example of how live TV viewers are using Internet-powered "second screen" devices and apps to supplement and enrich their television experience.  The debates will drive wide-ranging questions and answers that the multiscreen audience will want to quickly research, facts they’ll want to check immediately, and opinions they’ll want to see and share online, with easy access to real-time commentary and analysis.


This trend is also an example of what Verizon calls the Borderless Lifestyle.  Leveraging networks, technology, and connectable devices at home or away to take care of what you need or want to do, easily and conveniently – anytime, anywhere.


Where it gets interesting is how these borderless consumers anticipate using their second screen while watching: 

  • 41% of U.S. adults who plan to watch the debates live report they are at least somewhat likely to use their second screen to fact check candidates' claims during the debates

  • 39% of U.S. adults who plan to watch the debates live are at least somewhat likely to follow the live reactions of political reporters and one-third plan to monitor reactions on social media (23% plan to post their own reactions on Facebook, 14% are likely to post reactions on Twitter)

  • BONUS: A quarter (26%) of U.S. adults who plan to watch the debates live, which includes 44% of 18-34 year olds, report they are also at least somewhat likely to follow the live reactions of comedians, although it is not clear if this is to track their political punditry or for comic relief

Here is the data broken out:


How likely are you to keep another electronic device (e.g., desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet) on hand while you watch the presidential debates for each of the following purposes? 

Presidential Debate Why Use Second Screen.png

Base: Plan on watching the debates live


What type of device(s) are you most likely to use for social interactions and/or monitoring while watching the live broadcast of the presidential debates? Please select all that apply. 

Presidential Debate what Second Screen.png

Base: At least somewhat likely to do any listed activity on another electronic device


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Verizon from September 21-25, 2012 among 2,319 adults age 18+. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


UPDATE: Before the debate, we had asked people if they would watch it on broadcast TV or streaming media. 54 percent said they would watch the broadcast on live TV while four percent said they would stream the broadcast. So, did this hold up? According to numbers collected by Eric Johnson at All Things D, it's in the right ballpark:

  • Nielsen said 67 million watched it on broadcast TV

  • YouTube said they had millions of live viewers but did not specify a number
  • UStream reporterd 3.5 million streams (though they didn’t break out live vs. recorded)
  • CNN said they had 1.2 million watching it live worldwide (note, Whitney Houston’s funeral still had 700,000 more viewers)

  • AOL brought in 400,000 streams.

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