August 15, 2012

How the Presidential Candidates Use the Web and Social Media

Attention

What does all of this add up to in terms of generating a citizen following? One measure is the number of people following any one channel. Again, Obama has the built-in advantage of having begun these connections during the 2008 campaign. But the Obama team has added substantially to this in four years. His YouTube subscribers have more than doubled, and his Facebook supporters are about 16 times what they were in September 2008.  

Overall, looking at all the measures from "followers" to "views" to "likes," Obama’s numbers surpass Romney’s by a margin of at least 13:1. That includes Twitter, which was not in our study in 2008-and the Romney numbers are in question. In late July, Mitt Romney’s twitter feed suddenly reported a massive spike in followers-adding 141,000 in just two days time, but research into those followers finds that they were mechanically generated rather than real individuals.

Another measure of response or engagement is the number of people who have shared or liked content posted by the campaign. Researchers recorded the number of likes, comments, dislikes (where appropriate), retweets and views for every piece of content up to 48 hours after it was initially posted. Facebook by far generated the most attention for both candidates. Obama posts generated in total more than 1,100,000 likes during this period. Romney posts generated about half that, just about 635,000 likes in total.

The difference in response to Obama’s versus Romney’s social media content was more striking in the number of retweets. Obama’s tweets were retweeted more than 150,000 times during these two weeks. Romney’s tweets were retweeted just under 8,600 times.

On YouTube, Obama videos generated more than 800,000 comments, likes, dislikes and views. Romney’s videos generated about half that attention, just under 400,000 responses.

These differences are not simply a reflection of Obama’s campaign posting content more often than Romney. If one looks at the average response to the campaign posts on each platform, Obama also has a substantial advantage. For instance, Obama’s YouTube videos averaged 466 likes per video versus for 253 for Romney’s.  People commented on his Facebook content an average of 2938 times per post versus 1,941 for Romney’s. [1]


Footnote
1.  One other metric specific to Facebook is the People Talking About This (PTAT) score. Produced by Facebook, PTAT measures the “conversation” around a specific Facebook page by tracking the number of different people who have interacted with that page through page likes, post shares, events RSVPs or other actions. PTAT’s are measured over a seven-day range. During the time period studied in this report, Obama’s PTAT score was also far higher than that of Romney’s. For time period ending June 6, 2012, for example, Obama’s PTAT score was four times higher than Romney’s. In the first half of August, the gap between the two candidates’ PTAT scores closed somewhat, though Obama still enjoying a higher score than Romney.

Cite this publication: Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project Staff. “How the Presidential Candidates Use the Web and Social Media.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (August 15, 2012) http://www.journalism.org/2012/08/15/how-presidential-candidates-use-web-and-social-media/, accessed on July 22, 2014.