SocNet Outreach Is Moving Voter's Opinions (but not like you think)

In the never-ending quest to justify the use of social networks as a campaign and organizing tool, a new poll by online market research firm GMI has some preliminary evidence suggesting that candidate profiles are moving voters opinions (if not yet votes).

Have you checked out any of the presidential candidate's MySpace, FaceBook or other social networking page?

AgeTotal18-2425-3435-4445-5455+
Total Responses2116203459547497391
Yes17%39%23%14%11%11%
No83%61%77%86%89%89%

Are you more likely to vote for a candidate after you've looked at their MySpace page?

AgeTotal18-2425-3435-4445-5455+
Yes53%53%71%51%33%36%
No47%47%29%49%67%64%

After visiting a candidate's page did you feel like you personally knew them better?

AgeTotal18-2425-3435-4445-5455+
Yes64%66%71%62%65%45%
No36%34%29%38%35%55%

Analysis after the jump.

On the face of it, it would seem like less good news that of those surveyed, only a fraction - 17% - actually visited a candidate's profile. That number was a more robust 39% for younger voters, but declined dramatically in other cohorts. Let's put this into perspective, though: MySpace has upwards of 10 million users per day (link, some math required). That means 1.7 million of those people are visiting candidate pages (to say nothing of FaceBook or other social networking platforms, which would surely bump that number up closer to 2 or 3 million).

To be sure, these are not broadcast numbers, but it's hard to say that they are not large enough to be significant. This also does not take into account widgets, FaceBook Applications, and other methods for enabling those 2-3 million to pimp their candidate to their friends and family through their own profile, further widening the campaign's reach.

So just what are those numbers producing?

The GMI survey found that 53% of those who viewed a candidate's MySpace page were more likely to vote for that candidate afterwards, with the highest percentage found among 25-34 year olds, 71% of whom responded positively. 45-54 year olds were the least likely, with only 33% agreeing to that statement. As personality tends to trump much in our political arena, campaigns will be happy to know that even larger percentages in all demographics (really supermajorities in all but the 55+ cohort) feel that they leave a SocNet profile knowing more about the candidate personally.

Bear in mind that we are still pretty far out from the primaries. As we get closer, more voters will be seeking out information and clearly these profiles will be a resource for a good number of voters of all ages.

All cheer leading aside, there are a few findings in the poll that make me wary of its results - for instance the survey finds that 18-34 year olds are outnumbered almost 2-1 by those 35+, and GMI extrapolates that a full 62% of SocNet user are over 30 years of age. ComScore had similar findings in a survey they did of social networking last fall, and the numbers turned out to be wildly distorted because a flaw in their data collection methodology ( mostly because they didn't realize that a lot of kids misrepresent their age - 69 and around 100 are popular ages on MySpace - or log-on through parent-monitored accounts).

Assuming GMI's methodology isn't flawed (it seems odd they'd make the same mistake as the Comcast flaw was widely publicized) this should have implications for how the media views these tools, how candidates use them, and even how candidates view their own messaging towards different age demographics. Presumably candidates are tailoring these profiles to appeal to "younger" voters by presenting a more casual and interactive message. That these profiles are resonating with an older set might be another indication that candidates need to break down the public persona they hide behind and be themselves much more on the stump.

Tags: 2008 Primaries, Facebook, MySpace, Social networking (all tags)

Comments

6 Comments

Re: SocNet Outreach Is Moving Voter's Opinions (bu

The important part is the networking, by which I mean, it's friend-to-friend communications that are the important part.  Most of us old fogeys are so used to top-down campaigning that we only focus on the direct link to the candidate, as opposed to the secondary and tertiary links which flow from that.

Lots of people don't talk much politics, particularly among the younger set.  I didn't spend much time in college sitting around talking about which candidate I preferred in the Democratic primary.  (Possibly because my best friend was a Jesse Helms supporter.)

But if I sign onto Facebook, and I see that a bunch of my friends are listed as supporters of Barack Obama, that might make me curious.  I might find out more about him, or I might sign up as a supporter figuring that whatever my friends like is probably cool.  And it's entirely possible that I could become an Obama supporter, maybe even one who will go vote for him in the primary when he asks me to, without ever perusing his actual candidate page.  It's the links from my friends that spur my interest.

by Steve M 2007-08-24 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: SocNet Outreach Is Moving Voter's Opinions (bu
And it's entirely possible that I could become an Obama supporter, maybe even one who will go vote for him in the primary when he asks me to, without ever perusing his actual candidate page. It's the links from my friends that spur my interest. I agree. Which means, if anything, that these stats are understating things. Good stuff.
by Mike Connery 2007-08-24 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: SocNet Outreach...

I want to know if the predominant motive is to learn about a candidate you don't know, or to feel closer to the one you prefer. I suspect it's more the latter.

by JoeFelice 2007-08-24 10:48AM | 0 recs
Re: SocNet Outreach...

Hey Joe (longtime)

It's a great question that I don't have an answer to.  Though they did ask whether you were more likely to vote for that candidate.  Since the answers were emphatically "yes," at the very least we can say that these profiles are solidifying support.

There is a decent chance (though here I'm totally guessing) that they are reaching people that other forms of traditional political communication are not.  So while I can't prove it, I dont think it's out of bounds to suggest that some of these folks are new people coming into the process, whatever their initial preferences were.

by Mike Connery 2007-08-24 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: SocNet Outreach...

Sup Mike. I think your second paragraph is right on. Now when they say they're more likely to vote for a candidate, is that instead of other candidates, or instead of not voting at all?

Like above, I bet it's more the latter, making profile pages stronger tools for GOTV, fundraising, and organization; than for persuasion.

My gut is hardly data, of course, so I hope they do ask those questions next.

by JoeFelice 2007-08-24 12:31PM | 0 recs
this data is a bit absurd

because anyone can (and probably will) visit more than one candidate profile. so if you visit the profiles of Obama, Clinton, and Edwards, which one will you vote for?

also there's a causality issue: the people who visit profiles are already more likely to vote for them.

and finally there's a pollster-pleasing issue: people who are younger and less informed about politics are likely to guess that Yes is the answer that will please the pollster.

so i'd take this data with a few pounds of salt...

by bob fertik 2007-08-24 01:28PM | 0 recs

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