Social media data has been used to brew a beer that supposedly tastes like happiness and hope, but can it also be used to choose the next president? Legally, of course, the answer is “No,” but if the White House’s occupants could be determined by Facebook “likes,” the poll results may be surprising. According to new data released by FiveThirtyEight, the Democratic nominee would be Bernie Sanders by a margin of nearly three to one, Donald Trump would be more popular than Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio combined, and Ben Carson would be our next president. So you decide — which method, the ballots or the ‘Book, is better?
Of course, the Facebook popularity of various candidates is by no means an indication of their success in the polls. While Facebook has previously claimed that the platform helped predict more than 70 percent of key races (keep in mind this was in 2010), user sentiment and page likes are two very different animals. And the Facebook user demographic is not exactly representative of the general American public.
According to the Pew Research Center, despite the fact that 58 percent of American adults have a Facebook presence, this demographic is “disproportionately young, low-income, and female.” Interestingly enough, these are certainly target interest groups that many candidates consider crucial constituencies for a November victory, and based on Facebook’s data, they’re pulling for brain surgeon Carson over everyone else. This is a far cry from the reality of voters at the polls — Carson received just 9 percent of the vote in Iowa, and was dead last in New Hampshire.
26 percent of all Facebook likes for presidential candidates go to Mr. Carson, whereas both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump claim 23 percent. Ted Cruz has 12 percent, Hillary Clinton has a surprisingly low 8 percent, and Marco Rubio, perhaps most shockingly, has just 7 percent. Jeb Bush and John Kasich (who came in a surprising second place finish during the New Hampshire primaries), log 1 percent and less than 1 percent of your likes, respectively.
FiveThirtyEight’s interactive map lets you roll over individual states to see which candidates are leading where, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t “like” what you see. After all, this is just Facebook. The ballot boxes are where things will really matter.