The Fabceook Primary
History of the Facebook Primary
During the 2016 election cycle, I served as Chair of College Republicans at Eastern Oregon University and interned for Presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Like all other political junkies in the United States, I wanted to know who would be the next President, but I lacked my own method for scientific polling. As a joke, I started collecting monthly data about candidate Facebook & Twitter followers in the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, and Green Parties, ranking them by their social media prowess as a predictor for their electoral success. Each month I posted a new social media analysis on the website of Eastern Oregon University's Political Action Club, a series I called "The Facebook Primary."
Unfortunately, the joke got a little out of hand because social media performance was ultimately a reliable predictor of electoral performance. As primaries, debates, and polls culled more Republicans from the race, social media performance and delegate tallies for GOP candidates were correlated at a statistically significant 93.5% in March 2016. This number grew to a highly significant correlation of 95% in April 2016, only increasing to 96.4% in May. In December 2016, the tally of electoral college votes cast for Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, and Green candidates had a statistically significant correlation to the followers each party had on Twitter.
In the absence of scientific polling, election analysts have a variety of other data sources available to predict outcomes and measure candidate exposure. Social media is my favored source, though in the past I have also analyzed small donation tallies for candidates. Either data source has flaws, but they are still interesting tools to measure a candidate's potential electoral success. For additional questions and comments about methods and results, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex McHaddad, 6/8/2019