Our data-driven analysis of Americans’ online lives continues with our second deep dive into U.S. electorates’ online searching, browsing and information seeking behaviors. Our underlying goal is to crystalize the relationship between people’s online activity and the predictive polls to see if online behavior can predict the next President of the United States. Ambitious, aren’t we?

To achieve this, we investigated how U.S. voters navigated to candidate websites for further engagement. By analyzing voters’ search trends, candidate social activity and press coverage, we were able to map out the overall traffic flows to each candidate’s website. We will continue to update our analysis as the race to the presidency accelerates.

High-Level Presidential Analysis

Overall, direct traffic continues to be the main traffic channel to candidate websites. This month, direct traffic accounts for roughly 65 percent of the overall web traffic to candidate websites, with the remaining 35 percent attributed to search and referral traffic.  

Bernie Sanders remains in the lead for all traffic sources, with an average of a little under 32 percent of the total search, direct and referral traffic to candidate websites. Ben Carson is surprisingly a close second, with an average of roughly 26 percent of the overall traffic from all sources. Hillary takes third place with a little over 14 percent of the total traffic to candidate websites. And Donald Trump falls to fourth with slightly more than 10 percent of the incoming traffic to candidate websites.

When we look at the data for the top 10 presidential candidates from a political party perspective, we find that even though there are four times the amount of Republican candidates as Democrats, the two Democratic hopefuls receives 46 percent of the online traffic and roughly nine percent more pageviews per session than the Republicans. These two metrics suggest that Democrats are in the lead for public opinion.

Web traffic distribution to 2016 US presidential candidate websites

We decided to focus our in-depth analysis on the top three candidates: Sanders, Carson and Clinton. Read on to learn about our findings!

News Sites Are Gaining Speed

Jumpshot’s Competitive Analysis report indicates that social media is the main driving force for referral traffic to candidate websites. Social referrals are accountable for an astonishing 68 percent of the total referral traffic to candidate websites. Twitter and YouTube are neck-to-neck for the lead, bringing in 26.2 percent and 25.1 percent of the traffic, respectively, and reddit drives another 11.2 percent of the referral traffic. Overall, it seems that social media retains its supreme regime on referral traffic for the presidential hopefuls. However, traditional news publications are gaining strength.

Compared to the previous month, social referral traffic to candidate websites has declined by an average of 7.5 percent, while news referrals increased by a whooping 46.3 percent. The leading news publications to display a month-over-month increase in referral traffic is The New York Times, with a 92.5 percent increase in referring voters to candidate websites, mostly towards Sanders’ campaign site. Fox News comes in second with an 86.1 percent increase, mainly driving people to Ted Cruz’s campaign site. Third place goes to Politics1 with a 75 percent month-over-month increase in referring voters to candidate website, most of which clicked-through to Donald Trump’s website.

Month-over-month change in referral traffic to 2016 US presidential candidate websites

As for the social referral traffic, It’s interesting to note that 75-year-old Sanders’ is dominating millennial beloved YouTube, driving more than 2.5 times the amount of voters to his site for further engagement as the runner up for YouTube referrals, Donald Trump.

Leading Candidates According to the News

Based on our data and backed by the largest data panel in the industry, online news publications drive 37 percent of the referral traffic to candidates’ sites, while social networks drive 63 percent. This in itself is not surprising, but the 1.53 month-over-month growth rate of news site referral traffic is. Last month, news sites accounted for a under a quarter of referral traffic.

Bernie Sanders is in the lead for news referrals, with nearly 30 percent of all the news referrals to candidate websites, mostly driven from The New York Times. Clinton takes second place with 15 percent of the news referral traffic, mainly driven by Politics1. And a close third goes to Carson, with 13.5 percent of the news referral traffic to candidate websites, largely driven by Republican-inclined Fox News.

Referral traffic sources to 2016 US presidential candidate websites

Bottom line: Bernie Sanders has the highest amount of referral traffic, dominating with 64 percent of social referral traffic and 28 percent of publication traffic. Hillary Clinton comes in second, clocking in with 13 percent of social referral traffic and 19 percent of news site referral  traffic. Ben Carson joins the top three thanks to recent press coverage that drove nearly 15 percent of the total news referral traffic to his campaign website.

There are many ways to interpret traffic to candidate websites and online behavior in general. Just because someone clicks onto a candidate’s site doesn’t mean they are planning on voting for them. However, one thing that’s certain is that a solid social media strategy will increase candidate visibility in the digital era. Another takeaway is that news referrals will grow in importance as the race to Capitol Hill continues. We’ll be tracking it all, so stay tuned for next month. In the meanwhile, Happy Holidays from all of us at Jumpshot!