Who's winning on Facebook?

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Posted on 12/08/2015
Tagged: politics eliketion socialmedia dataisbeautiful donald trump ben carson jeb bush
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Over the next year or so I will attempt to draw meaning from the data we’ve started to capture with regards to simple indicators of popularity; such as Facebook Likes.   For a little background – we had an initial supposition: The single indicators of “likes” or “followers” for each of the presidential candidates could denote how well a candidate is doing in a campaign cycle.

As far as I can tell social media’s place in elections is not something that’s very well understood. It’s safe to assume that each candidate considers social media important, as to what impact social popularity has on it’s own is unclear. 

At Wowza, we work extensively on trying to let data speak for itself.  By looking at Facebook in the simplest manner we think we start to see what conclusions recording this data might bring.

A few observations from the first two months of gathering data: First of all, Ben Carson and Donald Trump are winning in the Like department; and when I say “winning” - I mean they are winning hard. So, for our first installment of the Eliketion blog it makes sense to start with the Republican frontrunners.  

If you haven’t peeked over at the eLIKEtion front page lately, what you see might be suprising.  Ben Carson has more likes then Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton COMBINED.  Trump is nearly at that level, showing extreme proclivity to enlist the entire populations of mid sized cities to like him within a scant 24 hours.

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Facebook likes are one source of power for Donald Trump

Second of all, the volume of likes accrued doesn’t correlate really to “good” or “bad” articles regarding a candidate.  If you follow the election at all, you probably understand that this single metric doesn’t exactly fit with perceived enthusiasm, or even the narrative from popular political pundits about the direction of the Republican Primary race.  Jeb Bush was originally declared the favorite, and still draws plenty of news coverage despite incredibly lackluster poll numbers and equally disappointing Facebook performance.

There were also particularly interesting periods in which the Republican “frontrunners” had what could be called a “burst”.  “Bursts” are days in which candidates gained over 1,000 likes per hour.  The hypothesis is that something happened for those candidates that created a call for support, and coincides with the news cycle during these “burst” days.  

For example, Ben Carson has had a few days with explosive growth.  On October 30th, news articles covered primarily Ben Carson’s faith, and on that day he netted roughly 1,495 likes an hour – On Nov 5th, Carson came under fire because CNN supposedly couldn’t corroborate any key story from his autobiography and that his scholarship to West Point never existed.  This lead to the Carson campaign countering that this was a “political hit job”, and it appears that conservatives rallied behind Carson at the blazing pace of 1,636 Facebook Likes an hour.  Carson also did extremely well after his November 10th debate performance, gaining 3,266 likes an hour, most of which came after 6pm (debate time!).

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To contrast with a poorer performing candidate, the best day Jeb Bush had earned a paltry 28 likes an hour.  That’s less then 2 likes per minute.   On his worst day, Ben Carson managed nearly double that (58 likes per hour on December 4th).  According to a study by the University of Houston, comparing yourself to other people isn’t good for you.  Thankfully we can take care of that for you, Jeb, so rest easy.  

Here is the graph showing all three candidates side by side, and the average hourly rate they accrued likes since we’ve started capturing data.

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- Zack Carlson