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Social Advocacy and Politics: Putting Your Finger on the Voters’ Pulse in Real Time

It is the Monday before the 2016 New Hampshire primary as I write this and the last opinion polls came out of the field yesterday. But the voting starts tomorrow (today, by the time you read this). So how accurate can Sunday’s poll be for predicting Tuesday’s vote? Possibly it will predict well, but things can change. Aside from some last minute SNAFU or attention-grabbing event, there is a sizable chunk of undecided or softly committed votes out there. So as the day unfolds at the polls, keep an eye on Google Trends, Facebook activity and Twitter activity for the candidates for any shifts in support.

In 2008, while the polls over the weekend before the vote suggested Barack Obama would win the New Hampshire primary, search activity for the candidates on Yahoo indicated a surge for Hillary Clinton. And she ended up winning that year.

This year, while only about 4-percent of the Democratic primary voters are undecided, about 20-percent of them say they could change their mind at the last minute. On the GOP side, 9-percent remain undecided according to the last poll and anywhere from 25-percent (for Trump) to 49-percent (for Rubio) to 63-percent (for Christie) say they could still change their mind. That is a lot of volatility and without any more polls in the field, we need to look elsewhere to see the shifting preferences.

Here are a few tips for putting your finger on the pulse of the voters in New Hampshire; and for checking the pulse before every upcoming vote in the 2016 campaign season:

  • Google Trends – Google Trends provides great data and data visualizations of search patterns for the candidates.
  • Oigetit.com – Oigetit is a new search engine that provides search analytics as part of your query results. As part of its presentation of the presidential campaign data, it ranks the candidates based on the number of media hits each gets and whether that coverage is rising or falling.
  • USA Today’s Facebook BarometerUSA Today has teamed up with Facebook to provide metrics on the amount of weekly buzz each candidate is generating on Facebook (likes, comments, shares and mentions). This data is not always as current as today, but a quick look at the candidate’s Facebook pages can give you a sense of their activity per post at the moment.
  • SocialMention.com – SocialMention provides real-time searches of publicly accessible social media posts. Click “microblog” to get a sense of buzz for any candidate search on Twitter (and a few smaller, but similar social networks). Similarly, you can click “blogs” to see the buzz there.
  • Twitter – Just as checking the candidate’s Facebook pages will provide you with up to the minute buzz data for the candidates on that network, looking at their Twitter pages can show you the buzz being generated there in real-time. Each tweet displays the number of retweets and likes. And searching for the candidates’ names (in various combinations of first and last name) will give you a sense of the frequency and tone of tweets about them.

And, of course, you can always keep an eye on the latest polls, even if they are a couple days old, at RealClearPolitics.com.

The bottom line is that social media and search engines provide voters with more tools than ever before for tracking the rise and fall of candidates. And while making sense of the data requires a bit of finesse and insight, access to the data is now in everyone’s hands. That means any one of us can become the next great political pundit, offering predictions and analysis of the upcoming and most recent primaries.


Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy at turner4D and writes Social Advocacy and Politics every two weeks, publishing on Tuesdays.

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