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What if the Presidential Race was Determined by Facebook?

FiveThirtyEight
Here in the UK, many of us learned an extremely valuable lesson after the last general election - you cannot trust Facebook. Maintaining your social life online has many curious side-effects, and one of them is that conflicting opinions are often kept far away. Whether intentionally or otherwise, we often tend to largely associate with people who share similar views to our own, and Facebook ends up turning into a kind of political echo chamber.

What about when you look across the entirety of Facebook though? Well, if the election went ahead today, and went purely by Facebook's data, the next US President would be - Ben Carson. If you've been following the election, you know that Carson, while still very much in it, is trailing behind Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The odds makers currently have him at 300/1 to even get the candidacy, let alone the whole election.

This data, collected by the FiveThirtyEight project, is based on 'like' count, and 26% of them belong to Carson. Bernie Sanders is the most popular democratic candidate with 23%, which is also the figure which Donald Trump is sitting at. That means that there are two republican candidates sharing 49% of all the Facebook likes, while the next runner behind Sanders is Clinton, with a comparatively low 8%.

If anything, this just demonstrates how little Facebook activity has to do with the real electoral proportions. Most would agree that Ben Carson is decidedly unlikely to even become the republican candidate, let alone the president, but his campaign Facebook is so active and so savvy (posting pictures of cute animals, for example) that in those terms, he appears to be the strongest candidate. What this doesn't account for is how many of the people who have liked his page will actually be - or are even capable of - voting for him.

Moreover, if Donald Trump's ongoing success has made one thing clear, it's that the 'any publicity is good publicity' maxim applies even more strongly on social media. His tendency towards saying outrageous things during campaign speeches, or starting fights on Twitter has only served to extend his reach, to the same extend as Carson's, which was achieved with research and hard work. I think it's fair to say that we've yet to see any electoral candidate, anywhere in the world, who owes their success principally to social media activity.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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What if the Presidential Race was Determined by Facebook? Reviewed by Callum Davies on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 Rating: 5

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