January 18, 2008

Which Candidates Are Winning On-Line?

Which candidates are most popular on-line? The answer to this question is not surprising. The Democrats are far and away the more computer savvy, while Republicans are mired in the old economy. Just recall how many members of the Bush Administration are tightly linked to either the oil industry or the automobile companies. Bush and Cheney are oil men. Even Condi Rice is on the Board of Chevron and has an oil tanker named after her. This name was bestowed before she came into the Bush White House, suggesting added reasons for her engagement with Middle East politics.  So, the Republicans are part of that old economy shaped to the needs of Detroit and Texas, the economy which focused on General Motors and assumed that the more cars sold every year the better off we all were.

The Democrats have moved on into the digital world, especially Obama, who has forged strong ties with Google. If you want to test that proposition, have a look at Facebook. All the candidates are out there on Facebook, but only some of them have much credibility in that venue. On Facebook, as most people know, it is relatively easy to become "friends" with another person, just by posting them a message and getting a quick reply. Obama must have a full time staff person looking after his Facebook page, however, as he has amassed no less than 251,000 "friends." Even if it only took 15 seconds to reply to each of them, the time involved is stupendous, more than 1000 hours. Hillary, by comparison, is not as popular - as everyone knows - so she has only 75,000 "friends" on Facebook. 

That is a big difference, but consider that McCain, most popular with voters over 60, has only 26,000 friends, while Romney is slightly more so, with 29,000. If all the Republicans are relatively "friendless" compared to Obama, Huckabee reveals a slight edge, with more than 43.000. This should not surprise us, for the religious Right is often quite high tech. They love tele-evangelism, use powerpoint presentations in sermons, and mount sophisticated marketing operations. Even old Oral Roberts who used to heal people on TV through the laying on of hands, while shouting "Heal," made millions through telemarketing, including a dial-a-prayer operation. 

Facebook is largely populated by the young, and not by people over 30 like myself, most of whom were cajoled to join by their students or a young relative. One may reasonably conclude that these Facebook ratings show that political commentators are correct when they suggest that the Democrats, particularly Obama, are winning over the young. If the election were held on Facebook, then the two candidates would be Obama and Huckabee, the winners of the Iowa Caucuses. And Obama would win that confrontation easily.

I want to thank Bent Sørensen who drew my attention to the Facebook "friends" of the candidates. He also pointed out that one can express a stronger level of support by declaring that one is a "fan." This requires downloading an extra little program, but does not cost anything. Here again, Obama wins, with 6300 "fans" compared to 3564 for Hillary. The poor Republicans have so few fans I will not embarrass them by posting their numbers. 

There is another way to tackle this issue of popularity on-line, however, by moving outside the confines of Facebook and just "googling" the candidates. Type in "Hillary Clinton" and there are 59 million hits. Obama only has 3.3 million, less than John Edwards at 3.8 million. The Republicans weigh in with McCain at 5.2 million, Mitt Romney 2.3 million, Rudy Giuliana 1.25 million, and Huckabee 1.1 million. If Google is a reliable indicator, then the two candidates are likely to be Hillary Clinton and John McCain, who were the winners of the New Hampshire Primary.

Curiously, one gets a similar result from Rasmussen Marketing.com, which has an on-line trading system that rates candidates and issues. It functions as a kind of handicapping system, suggesting the chances of each candidate getting his or her party's nomination. It turns out that as of today, Rasmussen Marketing gives Clinton a 57% chance of getting the Democratic nomination, with Obama at 41%.  McCain has a big lead among the Republicans, with 39%, while Romney (20%) and Giuliani (19.5%) trail behind. Huckabee is given little chance, with only 13.5%

In conclusion, we have three indicators - Facebook, hits on Google and Rassmusen Marketing. If you put them all together, Hillary and McCain seem to have the strongest likelihood of winning the nominations. It seems that Facebook is only a reliable index to the youth vote, not the electorate as a whole. But, as baseball fans like to say,  it ain't over yet.