Political Streaming Data: What 6.9 Million Viewers Tell Us About American Politics

In the year since one of the most divisive elections in US history, more than 6.9 million Americans got their news straight from the source by tuning into live press conferences, hearings, and briefings on Livestream.

When the information landscape is crowded with niche news sources, “fake news,” and Russian propaganda, this unfiltered access to primary political content is helping to bridge divides while American politics are at their most contentious. Livestream wanted to look at our own political streaming data to see what we could learn about our audience and their political views.

Image courtesy of Pew Research Center

Where Livestream Fits in Political Streaming Data + News

With an estimated 22.2m Americans slated to cancel their TV service in 2017, according to eMarketer, cordcutting is increasingly becoming a national pastime with Americans are increasingly getting their political news and information online. The Pew Research Center reports that as of August 2017, 43% of Americans often get news from online sources – neck-and-neck with the 50% who often get news on television. This gap between traditional broadcast TV news and digital has doubled in size since 2016. The same report notes that 85% of US adults get their news on mobile devices, and this surge is driven by older Americans: “Roughly two-thirds (67%) of those ages 65 and older now get news on a mobile device, a 24%-point jump from 2016 and about three times the share in 2013.”

Analyst Peter Moore, from digital survey company YouGov, found in 2016 that: 27% of America is “actively trying to avoid the news.” YouGov also reports that distrust in traditional media is on the rise, finding in a 2017 study that “Most Americans (70%) agree that news organizations report stories in a light that’s partial to who owns them.”

As Livestream is a platform – not a media company in the traditional sense – there is no political viewpoint offered. This level playing field eliminates the potential for slanting coverage through cherry-picking contributors or seconds of coverage presented without context. This neutrality and whole presentation of political streams offer viewers an unobscured look at notable political moments.

What Livestream Audiences Are Saying About Politics

We set out to study how our audiences discuss political streams and share their opinions. In 2016, coverage of the US presidential election and associated events – such as debates, rallies, press conferences – ranked as some of the most popular content on Livestream. A contributing factor to the popularity of these streams in Livestream’s unique live chat feature. Unlike the myriad internet comment sections found on traditional broadcast news sites, our audience can comment, chat, and debate in real time.

A year out from election day 2016, we analyzed the sentiment of the 5,355 comments on 241 politically-focused streams from November 2016 to November 2017, as seen by 6,959,622 viewers. We also looked at how this sentiment and viewership changed over time.

First we digitally analyzed the comments to rank the most-used words and visualized our results below – the more often a word was used, the larger it appears.

Then we looked at negative or positive comments over time. Computational tools were used to determine the emotional tone behind words, and to gain an understanding of the attitudes, opinions, and emotions of the people commenting. Illustrated in the graphic below, positive and negative comments overall spiked around the election, spiked massively around the inauguration, and then spiked negatively in June 2017 when Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey testified about Russian involvement in the election alongside other intelligence officials.

Political Streams + Audience

What political streams received the most viewership? We can only track what was streamed on our platform but the most viewed streams of President Trump’s first year in office include Secretary Clinton’s post-election address, the Inauguration, and former FBI Director Comey’s testimony in June.

Header image courtesy of Steve Harvey

This Week on Livestream | November 13, 2017

Watch live as Canon sponsors a flash photography seminar, Livestream Learn hosts a Livestreaming for Education Webinar and Q&A, and Paul Simon joins biologist and conservationist E.O. Wilson at 92nd Street Y.


Podcast Mixtape: WNYC Studios Presents Black Folks | The Greene Space
Monday, November 13
7 PM ET
“On the show: Eve Ewing, writer and sociologist of race and education, singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin, The New Yorker‘s Alexis Okeowo, Jay Smooth, host of the Ill Doctrine videoblog, and filmmaker/performance artist Jamal Lewis.”

Read Aloud: 2017 National Book Awards Teen Press Conference | 92nd Street Y
Tuesday, November 14
10:30 AM ET
“The National Book Awards Teen Press Conference brings the excitement of the most prestigious literary award in the country to New York City’s middle and high school students.”

John Banville | Mrs. Osmond | Author Events
Tuesday, November 14
7:30 PM ET
“In Mrs. Osmond, John Banville broadens the story of the titular heroine of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady into intense, subtle, thrilling new realms.”

Flash Photography for the Beginner, Sponsored by Canon | bheventspace
Wednesday, November 15
1 PM ET
“Confused about flash photography? You’re not alone! These small flash units are some of the most versatile tools a photographer can have at their fingertips yet many people stay clear of them because of the misunderstanding of how they work or how Speedlites can improve the look of their photography.”

Livestreaming for Education: Live Q&A With Harvard-Westlake School | Livestream Learn
Wednesday, November 15
1:30 PM ET
“Harvard-Westlake High School’s live sports broadcasts outpace those of most colleges or even professional leagues. Learn how this school has used live video to reach their community and grow donations.”

The Business of Curves | The Fashion Institute of Technology
Wednesday, November 15
6 PM ET
“This groundbreaking event will highlight the extraordinary growth and expansion of the plus-size fashion marketplace.”

JLCO Family Concert: Who is Benny Goodman? | Jazz at Lincoln Center
Friday, November 17
4:30 PM ET
“Through live musical performances and entertaining storytelling, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will share Benny Goodman’s joyful music and inspiring story.”

E.O. Wilson and Paul Simon in Conversation: Life, Creativity and the Future of the Planet | 92nd Street Y
Sunday, November 19
3 PM ET
“Famed biologist and conservationist E. O. Wilson is joined by his friend, legendary musician/songwriter Paul Simon, for a wide-ranging conversation about life on Earth, the intersection of science, humanities and the arts, and his newest work, The Origins of Creativity.”