SocNet Outreach Is Moving Voter's Opinions (but not like you think)
by Mike Connery, Fri Aug 24, 2007 at 10:35:31 AM EDT
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?
Are you more likely to vote for a candidate after you've looked at their MySpace page?
After visiting a candidate's page did you feel like you personally knew them better?
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.