We’re a nation that likes to handicap our competitive events. But before we drop a few bucks on our favorite sports team or Oscar-nominated actress, we need as much information as we can get. That also holds true before placing a bet on who’ll be our next president.
In the political arena, we follow how much money candidates raise, the major endorsements they secure and the amount of media coverage they receive. Daily polls report on who’s up and who’s down. But for a true political junkie, that’s not nearly enough.
One research firm wanted to find out if a candidate’s use of social media can predict election success. The group took at look at Twitter activities of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates heading into the March 8 Super Tuesday primaries in 10 states. Looking at the “positive sentiment” of tweets for each candidate during the six days between Feb. 26-March 2, the researchers predicted winners for each primary.
In hindsight, this is still a work in progress. The firm did pick the winners in Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio and Virginia. But it missed in Alaska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Vermont.
That social media is playing a significant role in this election is indisputable. Campaign spinmeisters are tweeting even before a debate or news conference has ended. And it’s not just Twitter getting all the political action.
Mitt Romney leads his challengers with Facebook, attracting more than 1.5 million likes. Ron Paul is the king of YouTube with more than 10 million views of his videos. And Newt Gingrich claims 1.4 million followers on Twitter — easily the most among this group.
But the Republicans are in trouble if these numbers have any meaning in predicting our next president. President Barrack Obama has 24.5 million Facebook likes, 173 million YouTube views and 12.8 million Twitter followers.
We’ll see what it all means come November. But in the meantime, as the media looks to fill its 24-hour news cycle, we might as well know how “social” our candidates are.