As the 2012 presidential election approaches, striking differences continue to
emerge between President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
The contrasts between their positions on hot-button issues like
contraception, healthcare, marriage equality, and the economy may be obvious,
but OhMyGov analytics also uncovers direct opposition between the candidates when
it comes to the roles social media and the Web are playing in their campaigns.
President Obama's well-documented refusal to surrender his BlackBerry when he
took office is but one example of his abiding love for modern technology.
During the 2008 election cycle, he vowed to run a grassroots campaign
powered by hope, change, and the world-wide web. As president he has continued
to nurture a web-based connection with his constituents using popular social
media sites like Facebook and Twitter throughout his term. If his solid
online presence is any indication, he has always included Internet marketing
experts among both his campaign and White House staff.
This approach is in stark contrast to Mitt Romney and former GOP candidate Rick
Santorum, both of whom fell victim to a so-called “Google-bomb” that rendered
their names synonymous with unpleasant bodily fluids. Social sharing was the
driving power behind those attacks, and months later, Romney's vulgar
definition continues to appear near the top of Google's search results for his
surname. A prank like that seems unlikely to doom his campaign, but it
may indicate that his staff is ill-prepared to compete with Obama concerning
Similarly, both politicians maintain profiles on the major social networks, but
Romney's Internet popularity is questionable at best. According to our
Leaderboards, he has 1,766,853 Facebook fans, a fraction of the president's
28,042,671, and although one would expect his numbers to be increasing sharply
as the GOP moves toward his official nomination, he received only 39,916 new
fans this week in comparison to Obama's 116,289.
The national and global bully pulpit of a sitting president can
explain much of this difference, but Romney’s team is right to be concerned
about their candidate’s relatively thin fan base on social media.
Popularity aside, the two men also appear to operate their social media
accounts in very different ways. While the president's campaign sent 25
original tweets in the past week, Romney's sent only six.
Tweets sent from @barackobama and @whitehouse were generally
positive in nature, quoting from the President's recent commencement speeches, sharing
accomplishments, and commenting on legislative efforts. In comparison, @mittromney
was decidedly negative, with four out of his six posts attacking Obama's performance.
One can guess that the President's campaign advisors have recommended capitalizing
on the upbeat approach that carried him through the last election, while Romney's
are inclined to appeal to a certain base of citizens who prioritize voting out
Obama over electing any specific individual.
Although we have to admit that social media is too new to be used as a definitive
tool for predicting election
success its value cannot be ignored, especially when
considering the impact young voters can have. In 2008, the Obama campaign
was met with overwhelming enthusiasm among young people. Late April polling
revealed that while some of that initial zeal has faded, the majority of
younger citizens continue to support the president over any of the Republican
candidates. His willingness to connect with them in the accessible,
modern venue of the Internet can only help him with this particular
constituency. If Romney's underwhelming participation in social media is
any indication of the effort he intends to put into courting the youth vote, he
may find himself facing an impossible hurdle come fall.
Written by Jessica Delbalzo
Edited by Richard Hartman