social media in the 2010 election - ohmygov inc. research

Click here to load reader

Download Social Media in the 2010 Election - OhMyGov Inc. Research

Post on 07-Apr-2015




2 download

Embed Size (px)


Study examines popularity of incumbent members of U.S. Congress on Facebook leading up to the mid-term November 2010 elections.


Social Media in the 2010 ElectionBy: Rebecca Nelson, PhD Richard T. Hartman, PhD Andrew B. Einhorn, M.S.

OhMyGov Inc. ResearchSeptember 2010

AbstractAs social media platforms continue their move from fringe to mainstream, elected officials and challengers to their offices need to understand the impact of social media as they incorporate it into traditional campaign paradigms. Campaign strategists are quickly learning that even the most carefully orchestrated campaigns can encounter unexpected pitfalls or boosts thanks to bloggers, Facebook fans and other vocal social media followers. Grassroots movements often begin and end on social media, making it all the more important that strategists analyze social media metrics regularly. By understanding and predicting social media, one can track a candidates or political partys popularity on social media with respect to competitors as an early indicator of election outcomes. To create a deeper understanding of the current political climate leading into the 2010 U.S. Congressional mid-term elections, this paper presents an analysis of social media growth patterns for U.S. House and Senate incumbents of rival political parties. Results from the study indicate that Republican members of Congress are gaining popularity on social media at faster rates than Democratic members. The trend may signify that a shift in political power in Congress from Democrats to Republicans is imminent this election cycle.

2010 OhMyGov Inc.


IntroductionMany political analysts believe that the use of social media helped to swing the 2008 Presidential election in

favor of Barack Obama. The Obama campaign used social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to generate interest in the candidate and his policy ideas with great success. By election day, Obama had more than 2 million supporters on Facebook, while his opponent, John McCain, had just over 600,000. On Twitter, Obama directly reached more than 112,000 followers, compared to just 4,600 followers for McCain.1 The powerful role social media played in shaping Presidential politics during the previous election cycle is not an anomaly. Social media appears destined to play an increasing role in politics and political campaigns, and may one day replace traditional surveys and telephone polling. Today, the social media world is still mysterious, as researchers and campaign managers maneuver to determine if social media data may be used to make predictions or to identify trends in public sentiment prior to elections. Research is needed to determine whether social media data may be used to accurately predict election outcomes, and which metrics are most important for making such determinations. This paper focuses on assessing the current political climate among voters in the November 2010 U.S. Congressional mid-term elections. Political pundits have speculated that the Democratic Party will lose their supermajority in Congress, and may even lose majority control altogether to Republicans. The extent of the power turnover is unknown; the circulating predictions are derived primarily from political polling that may or may not prove accurate so far from the election date. In order to assess whether social media could be used to model the political climate and level of discontent among voters with the controlling political party, this study examined patterns in Facebook fan (or Like) uptake for members of 111th Congress. There are 435 House of Representative seats and 37 Senate seats being contended in November 2010. We hypothesized that the rate at which Facebook fans and friends were being added to a member of Congresss official Facebook fan page, group, or profile page, could be used as an early indicator of general public support of that politician with respect to his/her opponent. We also hypothesized that aggregated Facebook fan/friend data could be used to model the level of public support for each of the political parties with respect to one another. This information may then be used to indicate whether a shift in political power will arrive in the next election.

MethodologyFrom May 1 to August 31, 2010, the count of fans/friends for the official Facebook pages of members of the 111th Congress was recorded daily. To ensure data validity, all Facebook pages were individually verified as the members own official page; pages created by unaffiliated individuals were eliminated from analysis. Most, but not all, of the current members of the 111th Congress have official Facebook fan pages. In the House of Representatives, 251 of the 255 Democratic members (98.4%) and 169 of the 178 Republican members2 (94.9%) were found to have fan pages. On the Senate side, 53 of the 57 Democratic members (92.9%) and 39 of the 41 Republican members (95.1%) were found to have fan pages. (Members identifying as Independents were not included in the study).


Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta, Obama's win means future elections must be fought online,, Friday 7 November 2008. 2 Manning, Jennifer, Congressional Research Service (CRS), Membership of the 111th Congress: A profile, July 19,2010.

2010 OhMyGov Inc.


To identify the political trends, we used the rate at which fans were added to Facebook fan pages as the measure of public sentiment. Because we used percent change over time in our analyses rather than total fans as the metric for analysis, differences in participation rates are minimized. Data were analyzed using JMP and Statistical Analysis System software. Percent change over time was calculated across political affiliation as a whole, as well as stratified by chamber (House of Representatives and Senate) and by geographic region. Regional definitions were based on the ten standard Federal Regions established by OMB Circular A-105, "Standard Federal Regions," in April, 1974 and shown in Table 1 below. Least squares regression models were used to determine statistical changes in Facebook fans over time. Representative affiliation (Democratic vs. Republican), collection date, as well as an interaction term (affiliation*date), were used in the regression model. The interaction term was necessary as affiliation and date each had an effect on one another. Trend lines were used to show increases and/or decreases across time. Table 1: Standard Federal Regions Region Region 1 Region 2 Region 3 Region 4 Region 5 Region 6 Region 7 Region 8 Region 9 Region 10 States Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands Delaware, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, W Virginia Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, N Carolina, S Carolina Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska Colorado, Montana, N Dakota, S Dakota, Utah, Wyoming Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Samoa, Guam Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington

Figure 1: Standard Federal Regions

2010 OhMyGov Inc.


ResultsSignificant differences in the magnitude of increase in Facebook fans were found between political affiliations over time (p