With over a month having passed since the nation faced one of the most widely covered and polarized elections of its time, advertisers continue to look for insights into how Americans are consuming political content across a national and state level. Inadvertently running against hate speech or inflammatory political content, for example, can have a serious and lasting impact on attitudes and purchase behavior, according to 82% of consumers.


Explore the Inflammatory News Index to see how Inflammatory Politics and News content shifts over time in relation to News and Political content. For more details on how the index works, click the “?” in the top-right corner of the meter.


How Do We Determine What Is Considered Inflammatory Politics & News?

As with all of our brand suitability categories, the Inflammatory Politics & News category is based on a clearly defined policy that sets out which types of content should be classified under the category. Our policy stipulates that content containing any of the following features should be classified as IPN:

  • Inflammatory Political Rhetoric: The use of coded language, blatant opinion statements in non-editorial content, extreme/exaggerated claims, incitement to political violence, and the use of slurs when referring to public figures
  • Misinformation: The communication of unreliable or unsubstantiated information on issues of political or societal importance
  • Disinformation: The communication of unreliable or unsubstantiated information on issues of political or societal importance, with the deliberate intent to mislead or confuse

The meter above reflects the volume of content that corresponds with our policy definition.


Below are some insights we’ve gathered, and will continue to update.


Political Content Surges During the First Week of 2021

We detected a 50% increase in political content during the first full week of 2021 as compared to the previous two weeks. The traffic rate of IPN, however, was concurrently at its lowest point since the end of September. IPN may have been offset by the general increase in political content. Although hate speech is not included in the inflammatory news index, it is noteworthy that hate speech doubled week-over-week moving into the week of January 3rd.


October and November 2020 See YoY Increases in Inflammatory Politics & News

Inflammatory Politics & News has seen a 67% increase in its traffic rate year-over-year, when comparing October and November 2020 with October and November 2019. While the traffic rates for News and Politics also grew, their growth rates were smaller, though still markedly increased: +16% and +32%, respectively. Notably, traffic rates for Inflammatory Politics & News were greater in swing states (+77%) compared with non-swing states (+61%)


Index Remains Steady, But at High Levels

The Inflammatory News Index has held steady at very high levels since the week of Nov 8th, following election day. Although there has been a slight decline in the traffic rate of Inflammatory Politics & News week-over-week since the election — now 16% below its weekly peak on Nov 1 — the traffic rates for News and Politics have also fallen.

Not too surprising following the election, traffic classified within the Politics category has seen a sharp decline, with rates dropping by about 50% from the week of Nov 1 to the week of Nov 22.

The traffic rate in the news category has fallen by about 19% during the same time period. This suggests that most people are consuming far less standard political content as election coverage dies down, but the Inflammatory Politics & News content audience has remained engaged with the news cycle on these sites.


Election Week Updates: Inflammatory Index Hits YTD Peak

The Inflammatory News Index of the 9 states with the closest races continued to increase, growing its Index to 22% higher than other states — the largest the difference has been all year.

The Index also hit a 2020 YTD peak on November 2nd, the day before the election. The biggest factor was the traffic rate of Inflammatory Politics & News ads also hitting a YTD peak as Politics and News traffic rates remained steady.


States with Closest Races Have a Higher Inflammatory News Index

Since the Kamala Harris VP announcement on Aug 11th, the nine states with the closest races (Ohio, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) have seen a 12% higher Inflammatory News Index than other states. This has been a very consistent trend. In fact, these swing states have not had an Inflammatory News Index rate lower than the average of all other states on any single day since the announcement.


Index Holds Steady with Election In Sight

You may have noticed the index has remained relatively steady from the end of September up until early October. This is due to the fact that Inflammatory Politics & News is seeing similar, consistent growth along with Politics and News content.


Increase in Inflammatory Politics & News URLs Focused on Death of SCOTUS, Ruth Bader Ginsberg

After the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, DV has seen a huge increase in pages classified as “Inflammatory Politics & News” that mention her or her former Supreme Court seat in some way. From Sep 18th – 30th, DV has classified over 1,500 new Inflammatory Politics & News URLs with some mention of this event.

These new pages have garnered over 2 million impressions so far (blocked and/or delivered). Impression volume peaked at 450K on the day following the news, Sep 19th, and has been steadily declining since.


The Inflammatory News Index Peaked at End of May

It’s worth noting that the meter reached its highest single-day point, at 158, during the week of May 31st. This happens to have coincided with the protests following the death of George Floyd.


News Rate Surges During Initial COVID-19 Outbreaks, While Inflammatory Rate Drops

As states around the U.S. faced initial outbreaks of COVID-19, News content saw significantly higher than average interest, while Inflammatory Politics and News was significantly down. This data indicates that as mainstream news outlets and institutional voices increased their coverage and attention on COVID-19, less reliable and more extreme content saw lower engagement.


Political Traffic Spikes with Kamala Harris VP Announcement, But Inflammatory Politics and News Decreases

Since Joe Biden’s formal announcement of Kamala Harris as his running mate, political traffic rates are unsurprisingly up across all states (compared to each state’s own rate, YTD). However, Inflammatory Politics and News is actually down by 10% during this time compared to YTD. In fact, it’s down in all but 5 states, and those that are up are up only very mildly at 5% or less.


Portland Protests Draw Spike in Political Consumption for Oregon

As thousands of demonstrators have been turning out in Portland in solidarity with the city’s opposition to excessive use of law enforcement, the state of Oregon has seen the highest consumption of political content nationwide. In July, Oregon consumed 7.4% more political content  compared with its own average rate for this year. This is substantial, as only four other states (Maine, Iowa, Washington, Vermont) have seen an increase in their political consumption in July, and Oregon’s increase is over 5x higher than the second ranked state, Maine.

Each of the 45 states not mentioned above have seen a dip in July compared to their yearly average, with an average decline of 4% since July 1st. This may suggest a fatigue in political content, as consumers look toward other outlets like sports and general news.


Online Political Consumption Seems to Lean Left

Since July 1st, the 10 states with the highest online political consumption were all blue states in the 2016 election, having voted for Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Whereas, the bottom 20 states with the least amount of online political consumption tend to be Republican strongholds, having voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.


As Election Nears, Battleground States Remain Quiet 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden recently kicked things up a notch, announcing a new $15 million ad buy in several key battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Florida. Political content consumption, however, has remained steady in these crucial battleground states.


Protecting Brands from Unsuitable Political Content

While today’s complicated political news cycle presents challenges, it does not mean advertisers have to choose between protection and scale. Understanding the proper brand suitability best practices is crucial in strategizing for an effective campaign. And with the right toolkit, brands can reach Americans who are consuming political content, while ensuring that content aligns with their message.


For more information on how DV can help you determine and execute brand suitability settings, check out our Election Guide or reach out to us directly.


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