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The social candidacy


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How close was the 2012 US Presidential election? Not as close as you we thought, apparently. The reason: Most polls and campaigns neglected social media. In doing so they missed a significant audience that was otherwise unreachable: The many young, Latino, African American and other voters who own cell phones but not land lines, or just prefer to talk online.

Published in: News & Politics

The social candidacy

  1. THE SOCIAL CANDIDACYPoll results, Facebook, and the 2012 Presidential campaign Ian Lurie, CEO, Portent @portentint
  2. OverviewWith the election over, it’s very clear: Candidates, pollsters andthe media must factor in social media.Political candidates have brands, just like companies do. They’reinfluenced by many of the same market forces, and social mediais one of those forces.And pollsters can make their models more accurate, sooner, ifthey factor in social media.The team at Portent put together this evaluation of the Romneyand Obama presidential campaigns based on Facebook datacollected since April 2012.
  3. Our analysisTwo months ago, we analyzed Facebook and Twitter data. Wereached two conclusions:1.  The Obama campaign was overly cautious, behaving like a classic big brand, and therefore letting the Romney campaign stay closer than they otherwise might.2.  The Romney campaign suffered from a ‘universe problem’. While he had a fiercely dedicated audience, he was unable to effectively expand it.You can read the full analysis in our blog post and slide
  4. Our hypothesisBased on those conclusions, we hypothesized that PresidentObama would:1.  Win the electoral vote by a large margin.2.  Win the popular vote by a small but measurable one.3.  Pollsters missed a huge pro-Obama audience who no longer have land lines and don’t reply to calls.
  5. ConclusionTwo key election players – pollsters and the GOP – suffer from auniverse problem.The pollsters need to expand their analysis to include the socialmedia universe. If they don’t, they’ll be excluding a key part ofthe electorate. Doing so will give them more accurate data.The GOP must find a way to appeal to the social mediamainstream. This will give them the ability to access theaudience that cost them this election.And, the Democratic Party should learn from this election:Study the types of media and messages that best performed,and refine their demographic targeting.
  6. The outcomePresident Obama appears to have won the electoral college332 to 206.He won the popular vote by 2.2-2.4%.Compare that to the 2004 Bush/Kerry election: Popular Vote Margin Electoral Vote Margin 2.40% 140 120 100 80 60 2.20% 40 20 0 Bush/Kerry Obama/Romney Bush/Kerry Obama/Romney
  7. The outcomeHistorically, Gallup has correctly predicted presidential electionoutcomes 9 of the last 10 elections. Their only miss was Carter’sdefeat of Ford in 1976.*This year, they missed their prediction by 3-4%. Not much. Butit’s a big 3-4%.CNN’s “Poll of Polls” had the national race too close to callNovember 5th. They showed Obama ahead less than the marginof error in Ohio.Other ‘tossup’ states included Virginia, Colorado, Florida andNevada.*They predicted a popular vote tie in 2004.
  8. The outcomePolling was unable to predict the outcome. We wouldn’t go sofar as to say they were wrong. But their data had the outcomein doubt right up to election day.Maybe it was just close. Maybe a lot of people made up theirminds at the last minute. Maybe the Obama campaign had a latesurge.Or, maybe social media, combined with poll data, provided aclear preview the entire time.
  9. The outcomeCandidates and polling companies should supplement theirpolling data:1.  With social media demographic data in crucial swing states, where campaigns might be investing heavily in their Facebook and other campaigns.2.  On a national level, to look at trends and clarify projections.
  10. Swing statesFacebook data may help predict the outcome in crucial swingstates.We looked at 4 swing states where the Huffington Post’s Poll ofPolls showed the outcome as a tossup: Florida, Colorado,Virginia and North Carolina.
  11. Swing states According to data gathered by Walker Sands PR, Facebook audience size by candidate correctly predicted the outcome in 3 of 4 states: Facebook audience size by candidate and state 1,800,000 1,600,000 ✔* 1,400,000 1,200,000 1,000,000 Obama 800,000 ✔ Romney 600,000 ✔ 400,000 200,000 0 Colorado Florida North Carolina Virginia*Florida hasn’t been called, but Obama leads by 50,000 votes with 100% of precincts reporting.
  12. Swing states Looking across all swing states, Facebook audience size was correct 80% of the time: ✔* 1,800,000 1,600,000 1,400,000 1,200,000 1,000,000 ✔ 800,000 ✔ 600,000 ✔ ✔ 400,000 ✔ 200,000 ✔ 0*Florida hasn’t been called, but Obama leads by 50,000 votes with 100% of precincts reporting.
  13. Swing statesIn non-swing states, Facebook did a far poorer job of predictingthe outcome: Audience size only correctly predicted theoutcome 27 of 41 times.Why the difference?Effort.The campaigns likely focused their online efforts on swingstates, just as they did offline. In those states, their effortsinfluenced audience sizes. In non-swing states, they didn’tinfluence audience size, and lower participation meant a lessaccurate predictor.
  14. Social media trendsWe updated our Facebook growth rate data to reflect the lastmonth of the election.Each debate had a short-lived effect. The trend remained thesame: After the Democractic National Convention, PresidentObama maintained or increased his fan growth rate; After theRepublican convention, Governor Romney saw an inconsistentgrowth rate. In fact, he lost momentum after the convention.
  15. Social media trends President Obamas Facebook growth rate: Rolling avg0.250%0.200%0.150%0.100% Pre-convention growth rate0.050%0.000%
  16. Social media trends Governor Romneys Facebook growth rate: Rolling avg4.000%3.500%3.000%2.500%2.000% Average pre-convention growth rate1.500%1.000%0.500%0.000%
  17. Social media trendsPresident Obama started with a massive advantage onFacebook: He had over 25 million fans in April. By November 1,he had over 31 million. His campaign showed all the attributes ofa big brand: Huge followership, and an over-abundance ofcaution. This came through in his first debate performance. Heneeded to go on the attack and take risks to secure thecampaign, and did so.Governor Romney started with 1.6 million fans in April. He did afantastic job growing his Facebook base thru August, reachingalmost 8 million. But after that, his growth rate plateaued andbegan to fall. The Romney campaign was a classic small brandwith a limited universe. They were able to grow within thatuniverse, but couldn’t get beyond it.
  18. Demographic gapFacebook reflects the thoughts of a demographic that pollingcompanies can’t access. Facebook users belong to thedemographic group most likely to have a cell phone as theironly telephone.Pollsters couldn’t contact that group, so they missedPresident Obama’s winning margin. (From Democracy Corps).Facebook taps that audience. And freely-available, anonymousdata that Facebook offers via their API provides a fantastic wayto observe and measure their voting intent.
  19. Conclusion: PollingIf polling companies want to remain accurate, they need to addsocial media data to their models. At a minimum, they shoulduse:1.  Facebook fan growth rate;2.  Facebook comment sentiment;3.  Facebook audience response – comments per post, likes per post;4.  Twitter audience growth rate;5.  Facebook and Twitter audience quality.
  20. Conclusion: CampaignsCampaigns must have a strong ‘ground game’ in social media.Like pollsters, they can access an audience that’s mobile andhard to reach. This audience is only going to grow in the nextfour years.To succeed, they will need to:1.  Monitor social sentiment.2.  Post, measure and refine their content strategy continuously.3.  Invest heavily in video for social distribution.4.  Learn to use demographic targeting, if they aren’t already.5.  Use tools like re-targeting to segment between supporters and potential supporters.
  21. Conclusion: The social candidacyWe’ve entered the time of the social candidacy. Internetmarketing and social media provide access to a mobile, young,diverse audience that can swing elections.Campaigns and polling organizations take note: The 2012election was a sea change in campaign media channels. Adjuststrategies accordingly.
  22. Q u e s t i o n s? @portentint