« Kahl on measuring progress in Iraq. | Main | Legro on What China Will Want »

Williams and Gulati on Facebook and the Midterms

Abstract: As part of a 2006 election feature, Facebook created entries for all U.S. congressional and gubernatorial candidates. Candidates or their campaign staff then could personalize the profile with everything from photographs to qualifications for office. Facebook members could view these entries and register their support for specific candidates. They also received notification every time one of their Facebook friends registered support for a candidate. Facebook displayed the number of supporters for each candidate and calculated the percentage of ―votes‖ that candidate had in his or her race. According to Facebook, 2.64% of their users supported a candidate. All total, 1.5 million members (about 13% of the total user base) were connected either to a candidate or to an issue group.

This study investigates the extent of Facebook profile use in 2006, and analyzes which Congressional candidates were more likely to use them, with what impact on their vote shares. Of those running for the Senate, 32% posted content to their Facebook profile, with the Democratic and Republican candidates attracting an average of 2,146 supporters. Of those running for the House, 13% posted profiles with an average of 125 supporters among Democratic and Republican candidates. Democrats were more likely to post a profile and had more supporters as well. For House candidates, challengers, better-financed candidates, and candidates running in competitive races were the most likely to update their Facebook profile. Competitiveness of the race was the only variable to have a significant effect on whether or not a Senate candidate campaigned on Facebook. The candidates‘ Facebook support had a significant effect on their final vote shares, particularly in the case of open-seat candidates. Given that Facebook supporters may not draw from a candidate‘s eligible and registered voters and tend to overrepresent the 18 to 24 year old age demographic, we see this measure as a proxy for the underlying enthusiasm and intensity of support a candidate generates. In other words, the number of Facebook supporters is an indicator of a campaign resource that does matter, and is independent of the impact of other variables in our predictive model.

Christine B. Williams and Girish J. “Jeff” Gulati (2007), “Social Networks as Viral Campaigns: Facebook and the 2006 Midterm Elections,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Via TechPresident.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)