Facebook is a pretty crude measure of who is winning an election. But it does give us some insight.
I looked at the Facebook pages of the candidates in this race and the results are interesting.
Let’s just start with some raw stats:
- Sal DiDomenico – 1,083 friends
- Tim Flaherty – 737 friends
- Dennis Benzan – 553 friends
- Denise Simmons – 515 friends
- Michael Albano – 376 friends
- Dan Hill – 185 friends
It’s a short race, and we are not likely to see any real scientific polls so signals like this are about as good as we are going to get.
All things being equal one would expect that the number of Facebook friends a candidate has would be proportional to the total support they have.Â Certainly candidates who appeal to older voters will have fewer Facebook friends. And I’m sure some candidates do more outreach for Facebook friends than others.
When someone joins a Â candidates Facebook page an update goes out to all their friends so its a very public endorsement. Rather than a measure of overall support this is more a measure of ‘hardcore’ support.
One important aspect of Facebook friends is that this is a good way for candidates to organize volunteers and for get out the vote efforts. For each friend you generally know about where they live. You can use that to help organize canvassing efforts, signs, driving etc.
When candidates have a lot of friends they can also do a sort of demographic analysis. What part of the district are they getting friends from? What age and sex are they? And you get constant feedback – do they like your press release, do they approve of your message.
Some things are about as we expect. The front runner is DiDomenico, followed closely by Flaherty. I’m a little surprised with the amount of organization he has that his numbers aren’t even higher. Their supporters are balanced by sex ( 55%M/45%F), and tend to be white.
Then the real surprise is how well Benzan is doing. He’s new to politics and not really from the district – but it looks like his message is working. I would have expected to see him trailing in the Facebook race. He’s ahead of Simmons, who has been in local politics for years. Â Looking over the list of supporters I can see he’s really capitalizing well on the Hispanic vote and is appealing well to both men and women. (55%M/45%F)
Somewhat surprising again is how well Simmons is doing. I though originally that she would have a hard time getting traction outside her Cambridge base. It looks like I was wrong. Simmon’s support is trending female (35%M/65%F). Not surprising given she is the only woman in a 6 way race. Her supporters are the most ethinically diverse. She and Benzan seem to be the only candidates getting much black or Hispanic support – at least on Facebook. And since they both draw heavily in Cambridge it looks like they may be splitting the same demographic.
On the other end, I expected Albano to be at number 3. But he’s trailing Benzan and Simmons by a good bit. Maybe he’s just been neglecting the Facebook part of the outreach. If this is a reflection of his outreach generally then it does not bode well for Albano. Albano’s support is balanced by sex (60%M/40%F), but not very diverse ethnically.
Dan Hill is where I expected – and I expected Benzan in this spot with him. I like Dan Hill and Dennis Benzan and they spoke well at the Â two debates. But with no name recognition I was expecting to see them both trailing badly. Dan Hill’s supporters are about as while as rice, and trending very strongly male (80%M/20%F). Â The district is pretty ethnically diverse. He needs to see what he can do to appeal more broadly.
There is an uncontrolled web poll on this raceÂ here. Who knows what the demographic voting is and the sample set is small. It echoes some of what we see in this Facebook analysis. DiDomenico again the clear leader, and Flaherty and Simmons getting a lot of support at #2 and #3. Totally at odds with Facebook is Dennis Benzan trailing.
Ultimately what is really going to matter is who has the ground forces to actually get people to a special election in 3 weeks. Facebook doesn’t tell us that – but it gives us some hints.
From looking at this I think we definitely need to pay more attention to Simmons and especially Benzan.
If there is a candidate you support add them on Facebook. It helps your candidate and costs you nothing.