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Facebook reflects swings in presidential campaigns

Computerworld staff | Oct. 16, 2012
Social networking has become so critical to the 2012 presidential campaign that one analyst said Facebook is accurately predicting swings in the election polls.

What was generally seen as a lackluster performance by Obama during the debate didn't hurt his Facebook numbers.

Lurie noted that the Obama campaign also caught a jump in Facebook followers but, unlike his opponent, who saw an immediate increase, the president's came later. Two days after the debate, Obama's daily growth rate on Facebook went from 0.05% to 0.18%.

While Obama may not have scored a lot of points during the debate, his campaign came out strong on social networking sites immediately afterward and in the ensuing days, posting information about Romney's statements during the debate, specifically focusing on Medicare, women's health issues and education.

"What they did on Facebook kept the debate going," said Lurie. "The amount of shares and likes on those posts was very, very high. His shares per person went up by 40% or 50% compared to the day of or the day before the debate."

There was a fluctuation in numbers last week, as well.

Lurie noted that Obama's Facebook page showed "explosive growth" between Monday and Thursday of last week, adding 1.2 million new followers. Romney, meanwhile, had a slowdown in his growth rate since last Tuesday, has slipping from 1.5% to 1.2%, according to Lurie.

As of late Friday, Lurie did not have any numbers on how Thursday night's debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan affected Facebook growth in shares and likes for either campaign.

How accurate can Facebook be in tracking the pulse of the election when the average age for Facebook users is 22?

According to Lurie, there's a large enough cross section of voters on Facebook -- people of various ages from numerous geographical locations -- to make it an accurate tracker.

"The fastest growing audience on Facebook is 45-plus," he added. "I know who's on there, and I see a lot of activity from people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. They're sharing and forwarding things. They're participating. There's no question."


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