For Democrats, this map conceals the bad news
Republicans in Congress, already far outpacing their Democratic
rivals in social media popularity, widened that lead significantly
between May and August this year, according to a study released today.
surge in social media popularity by GOP incumbents, as measured in the paper by OhMyGov Research, further fuels speculation that the
November elections could bring about a change in power on Capitol Hill.
Social media support for incumbent Republicans was particularly strong compared to Democrats in the Mid-Atlantic region --- states that were critical to President Barack Obama's victory in 2008. Congressional Republicans in the Mid-Atlantic region increased their collective Facebook fans by 115 percent between May 1 and August 31, 2010, compared to Democratic gains of under 10 percent.
Across the entire country, GOP members of Congress showed an advantage over the summer of 2010 not only in overall fans, but also in
the rate of Facebook fan growth, rising at a rate of 35 percent compared to Democrats' increase of 22 percent. Republican members of Congress claimed 2,148,619 fans as of Aug. 31, dwarfing Democrats' 952,847 fans.
The Republican advantage was even more pronounced in the House, where GOPers
increased their fan base at nearly double the rate of House Democrats. Fan counts (now clumsily known as "Likes") for Republican Facebook pages rose 49 percent over the summer months, compared to just a 26 percent rise for Democrats.
In the Senate, Democrats gained 17 percent more users over the study period, while Republicans added 20 percent, a statistically insignificant difference in growth rates. Despite being outnumbered in the Senate 57-41, Republican senators still have triple the number of Facebook fans as their Democratic counterparts, due, in part to Sen. John McCain's large following.
The OhMyGov study focused on growth rates, instead of overall numbers, to look at
momentum as Election Day nears, and to diminish influence of already
well established figures like McCain who have large existing fan bases. Most, but not all, members of Congress have official Facebook fan pages. In the House of Representatives, 251 of 255 Democrats and 169 of 178 Republicans have fan pages; in the Senate, 53 of 57 Democrats and 39 of 41 Republicans keep pages. Independents were not considered in this study.
GOP charges ahead in key states
Looking at the country region by region, Democrats fared slightly better than the overall results indicated, posting greater social media gains in 6 of the 10 geographic regions examined. However, these gains were mild in comparison to the regions where Republicans dominated. The strongest showing by Congressional Democrats came in the Pacific Northwest region (comprised of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska), where they increased fan counts 39 percent compared to the GOP's 17 percent. This is only one of two regions where Democrats claim the advantage in overall fan numbers; the other is New York - New Jersey - Puerto Rico - USVI. [The study used OMB's federal standard region definition.]
But across a large swath of the nation, including bellwether states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Virginia, Florida and even President Obama's home state of Illinois, the social media action is all on the Republican side of the aisle. In addition to impressive fan growth in the Mid-Atlantic, GOP enthusiasm drove Facebook fan rates to rise by 83 percent for Congressional Republicans in the Great Lakes region, and by 60 percent in the Heartland. This compares to fan gains of 19 percent and 21 percent, respectively, for Democratic lawmakers.
Notably, in both the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions, Republicans started out the summer trailing Democrats in social media followers. They now lead in both regions by considerable margins --- 15 percent in the Mid-Atlantic and 10 percent in the Great Lakes.
These latest Facebook numbers --- coming in the wake of earlier reports about Republican successes in social media --- support what many election pollsters are also finding: Republicans are more energized about the upcoming mid-term elections than Democrats and are expressing their enthusiasm publicly by making connections on social media sites.
OhMyGov's initial investigation into whether social media behavior can be an accurate predictor of Election Day results will be followed up once all the results from the November mid-term elections are tabulated.
For now, though the GOP may be the minority party in both chambers of Congress, they remain king on social media.
Social Media in the 2010 Election - OhMyGov Inc. Research