Candidate buzz on social media and in search engines has emerged as an interesting metric for gaging how well the campaigns are doing. Back in 2008, for example, while the last opinion poll in the field predicted that Barack Obama would win the New Hampshire primary, Yahoo Buzz correctly predicted Hillary Clinton would win. Unlike the polls, which were wrapped up by the Sunday before the Tuesday vote, Yahoo was able to measure the number of searches for Clinton up until the polls opened. Even after removing searches for Hillary crying in the diner, which Yahoo assumed included a lot of people who thought Hillary was faking the tears, she had such an uptick in search queries that helped the Buzz Index predict her victory. Since then, more attention has rightfully focused on the levels of online buzz about candidates as a measure of how well their campaigns are doing.
One of the best measures of online buzz available today is Facebook's "People are Talking About This" stats on the candidate pages. While not a comprehensive measure, it provides a good sense of how engaged citizens are with each candidate over the previous week. And while we should temper this metric with the context of the total number of page fans and the number of new fans over the past week, it is the engagement (likes, comments and shares) that tap into the intensity, versus the curiosity, of voters' attention to the candidates.
In this spirit, here are the Facebook metrics for the seventeen GOP candidates, as of August 31, 2015:
As we can see from the August 31 table, Donald Trump and Ben Carson are dominating the field, with Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz following in a distant third and fourth place. Interestingly, Jeb Bush did not even make the Top 10. This may suggest a strong bias against establishment candidates, for now at least.
Comparing the latest numbers to those from early August, fresh off of Jeb Bush entering the race, we see some interesting changes. After making a huge splash on August 4, Jeb Bush slipped from the top ranked candidate to the 11th. And even with his big splash, the number of his Facebook engagements then still fell nearly 100,000 short of Trump's engagements this week. Also note, that the early August numbers showed a Trump in 7th place, after he had been dominating in July. But, as the current numbers show, this was only temporary and likely due to the extra attention Bush pulled in the media by officially entering the race.
Other interesting points of comparison from the August 4 to August 31 include:
- Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson both placed in the top 3, though Carson has jumped over Huckabee
- Carly Fiorina made a big jump since August 4, most likely due to her performance in the Fox GOP Happy Hour Debate
- John Kasich only moved up one spot, despite his appearance on the Fox GOP Prime Time Debate
- Bobby Jindal, despite being practically invisible, moved up a few spots
- Lindsey Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore continue to be going nowhere
We will check back on these and other social media metrics for the candidates now and then in the coming months. So, if you have any suggestions for supplementing this analysis, please share them in the comments.
Social Advocacy and Politics is a bi-weekly column by Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy at turner4D and a 20+ year veteran of digital politics.