Category Archives: 2012 Election

Do incumbents always have the social media advantage?

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By Becky Hogan

There are few things more predictable than the chances of an incumbent member of the US House winning reelection.  Even with public approval ratings at all-time lows, nine in 10 incumbent Representatives won reelection in 2012.

Between name recognition and ample campaign funds, House incumbents usually don’t have too much trouble holding onto their seats. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the rate of reelection for incumbents has been well over 90 percent in recent years.


So with politicians increasingly using social media platforms to reach constituents, do incumbents always have the advantage when it comes to online presence too?

We looked at all incumbent races for the US House in 2012, comparing incumbents and their challengers for Twitter Followers and Facebook Likes.

According to our data, 88% of incumbents had more Twitter Followers than their challengers. And 81% of incumbents outpaced their challengers for Facebook Page Likes.

Here’s a breakdown of the average number of Twitter Followers and Facebook Likes for incumbents and challengers.


Not too surprisingly, incumbents have a clear advantage when it comes to developing their social media presence. Still, some challengers were able to buck the trend.

Here’s a quick rundown of a few challengers that upstaged their incumbent opponents on social media:

  • Democratic challenger Jose Hernandez had the most impressive Twitter Following of any challenger with 247,097 more followers than his incumbent rival Rep. Jeff Denham.  Hernandez also upstaged Denham for Facebook Likes, but it wasn’t enough to win the election—Denham held onto his seat in California’s 10th district despite his smaller presence on social media.
  • GOP candidate Mia Love won big in social media but not in votes against Democrat incumbent Jim Matheson: she racked up 36,020 more Facebook Likes and 30,769 more Twitter Followers than her opponent.  Love announced last month that she plans to take on Matheson for Utah’s 4th district in the next election cycle. Perhaps her social media base will help her mobilize support the second time around!
  • Illinois had some tough House races in 2012 largely due to redistricting. Republican incumbent Bob Dold lost narrowly to his Democratic challenger Brad Schneider.  Schneider had 15,189 more Facebook Likes than Dold–perhaps his Facebook presence gave him an edge with voters.  Dold announced last month that he plans to run against Schneider again in 2014.

Check back here to see how other incumbents fare on social media in upcoming races.

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Social Media Faceoff: Dems vs. GOP

By Becky Hogan

The College Republican National Committee recently published a sobering report about how the GOP was “out of touch” with young voters in the 2012 elections, costing them votes from this increasingly important voting bloc.  One reason for this disconnect was the GOP’s inability to keep up with social media.  And it’s no secret that Republicans have faced criticism for being slow to adopt technology compared to Democrats.

At TrendPo, we let the data speak for itself. So, is the GOP really out of touch when it comes to social media?

We analyzed two variables that we track regularly—Twitter Followers and Facebook Likes—for all Senate, House, and Gubernatorial candidates (winners and losers!) during the 2012 elections, and found some surprising conclusions.

You might be thinking do Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers alone really equate to social media engagement?  While there are many ways to measure this, our data shows that in the 2012 elections, there was a clear relationship between these variables and the candidates that won their races. Eighty-four percent of candidates that had more Twitter Followers than their opponents won their races; 78% of candidates that had more Facebook Likes than their opponents won their races.

On Twitter, Democratic candidates for Senate obtained more Twitter Followers than Republicans, while GOP candidates for House seats outpaced their Democratic counterparts.  This isn’t too surprising since Democrats won the Senate and Republicans maintained their majority in the House.





For gubernatorial candidates, Republicans and Democrats were tied in their ability to acquire Followers.  The Democrats have a slight edge as they averaged 2,843 Twitter Followers compared to Republicans who averaged 2,604 followers.  This stands to reason since Democrats won seven of the 11 Governors’ races.



Looking at all 2012 candidates combined for Twitter Followers we can see that GOP candidates overall were more successful in gaining Twitter Followers.

We should note that this combined chart is biased by the House numbers because there are so many more House candidates than Senatorial or Gubernatorial candidates.  However, the chart shows one important insight:  while Republican candidates outpace Democrats in almost all of the threshold bins, the Democrats have an edge when it comes to the higher follower thresholds, i.e. above 14,000 followers.  This could be one reason for the common perception that Democrats are better at social media—there are some Democrats who are really really good at garnering Twitter follower counts!



Now let’s examine Facebook Likes.  On the Senate side, Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans for Facebook Likes.  However, the candidate with the top Facebook Likes was Republican incumbent Scott Brown who had 370,453 Likes leading up to the election.



On the House side, Republican candidates have a slight advantage again.  While Democrats did better in the lower Facebook Likes bins, Republicans tended to outperform Democrats in the mid-range bins and particularly in the >15,000 bin.



For the gubernatorial races, Republican candidates beat Democrats in Facebook Likes with an average of 15,429 Likes per candidate.  This was over twice the average Likes for Democrats and quite surprising given that Democrats won more of these races.



So there you have it!  It looks like the GOP might not be so behind in social media engagement after all–in fact, in a lot of areas they are ahead.  Democrats performed better in the Senate on both social media variables, while Republicans did better in the House.  Gubernatorial candidates were split—Democrats were slightly better at obtaining Twitter Followers, and Republicans garnered double the amount of Facebook Likes compared to Democrats.

For more analysis on social data and the 2012 elections, sign up to follow our blog here.

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Note: All data is an average from the 4 days prior to the November 6, 2012 election.

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