- 11.04.10 - 11:00AM
- - by
- Chris Menning
How Well Did Facebook Predict the 2010 Midterm Election Results?
Yesterday, Facebook's head of consumer marketing Randi Zuckerberg tweeted "In 20 of last night's hot races, we accurately predicted 16 based on Facebook candidate "like" comparisons. Check out @allfacebook's map!"
On AllFacebook.com Nick O'Neill reported that fan counts for candidate's fan pages correctly predicted 81 percent of Senate races and 74 percent of House races, while they didn't have the Gubernatorial figures yet.
I decided to see how their maps compared to the election results from the AP. I love the idea of being able to accurately predict human behavior by polling so many people. How closely does clicking the "Like" button translate into voter turnout?
Senate RaceFacebook correctly predicted the outcome of 27 out of 36 states, for roughly 75%.
As of publishing time, Washington and Alaska are still too close to call. South Dakota was won by Republican John Thune but no Facebook data was reported. He has over 74,000 Facebook fans but ran uncontested.
Democrats took Nevada, Colorado, Vermont and Delaware despite trailing behind their opponents on Facebook. The discrepancy with Delaware is a prime example of how Facebook fans aren't necessarily supporters. I'm a fan of Christine O'Donnell, not for her politics, but because she's a former witch who can't stop talking about masturbation. So of course I want to follow what happens on her Facebook page, but that doesn't mean I want to vote for her. Plus, I don't even live in Delaware, and neither do many of her Facebook supporters.
In Iowa and Indiana, Democrats were more popular on Facebook but still managed to lose the race.
Gubernatorial RacesFacebook didn't fare as well with Governor's races, correctly predicting 19 out of 36 states, for only about 52%.
Minnesota, Illinois and Connecticut are still undecided.
Democratic candidates from Alaska, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Texas, Nebraska and Kansas all came out ahead on Facebook, even though every one of them generally swings red, so it's no surprise that they all lost to Republicans at the polls.
Republican candidates from Hawaii, California, Mississippi, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont were all popular on Facebook despite those states generally having more Democratic leanings. Again, when taking into account their "blue state" tradition, it's not a surprise that the Democrats won.
Rhode Island elected Independent candidate Lincoln Chafee had slightly more Facebook fans than his Republican opponent and over 1000 less than the Democrat.
Congressional RacesAs important as the House election was, I haven't had a chance to compare the results the 191 congressional districts measured by AllFacebook to their outcomes as reported by the AP. But by layering the two maps and identifying the overlaps, we can get a general sense of the volume of correct predictions.
Without having gone in-depth, district by district, it would appear that Facebook did a fairly accurate job predicting most of the congressional seats. However, the size of each district corresponds to roughly 600,000 people, so judging by size is not the most accurate approach. Consider how the largest portions of correct congressional Facebook predictions lie over the sparsely populated Rocky Mountains.
ConclusionsAre Facebook fan pages really a good indicator of the outcome of elections? Yes, to a certain extent.
Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver's Senate predictions came out with an uncanny resemblance to the Facebook senate predictions, while his predictions for the House and Governor's races have turned out to be more accurate than the Facebook figures. Granted, Silver's methodology of compiling polls from various sources is more rigorous than simply tallying "Likes."
Although Facebook fan pages may be less accurate, Randi Zuckerberg is aware of some of the potential issues, noting on Twitter that "many of the candidates with national appeal may have many 'likes' from ppl who aren't voters in their state."
In the end, Facebook is a great way to gauge what people like, but may not be the best indicator of their propensity toward taking action. I mean, playing Farmvllle doesn't make you a farmer.
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