For the past few years, with the exception of President Obama's campaign, Republicans have held the position as the political party most in command of social media. That command arguably helped them take control of the House of Representatives in 2010, but the data shows their reign in social media may be coming to an end.
A quick look at the two graphs below displaying the cumulative growth rates of Facebook fans (likes) and Twitter followers for Republicans and Democrats in Congress over the past year shows that not only are Democrats keeping up with Republicans on Facebook, but that they are outperforming them on Twitter. So what does this mean?
Recent studies have demonstrated correlations between social media fan growth rates and political polling numbers - an indication of the likelihood of being successfully elected. These studies suggest that election outcomes may be predicted using social media data - specifically growth rates and fan base numbers on social media.
If the numbers indicate that Democrats are beginning to dominate on social media, this could be an early indicator of what's to come during the 2012 election cycle.
Both parties have been highly engaged in a public relations blame game for a poor economic climate, a rising national debt, the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, and Congressional stalemates over legislative priorities such as passing a federal budget. It appears, according to social media data, that the Republicans are losing that PR battle and more citizens are siding with the Democrats. Should the trend continue, Republicans may be lining up for a huge loss come November.
History seems to be repeating itself, but for the opposite party. In May 2010, incumbent Republicans in Congress began accumulating Facebook fans at a much more rapid rate than their Democratic counterparts. One study examined this rate and showed a statistically significant increase in Facebook fans for incumbent Republicans over Democrats in both the House and the Senate, though the difference was far greater in the House.
Election outcomes in 2010 showed the social media, particularly Facebook, could be a useful early indicator of public opinion, as Republicans gained back control in the House and won back eight seats in the Senate.
Given the latest social media data from 2011, it seems the Dems are mounting a comeback in 2012.