Social Networks, Data Took Starring Role in Presidential Campaign
Election Day 2012 was marked by an Obama victory, a set of wins for Democrats in the Senate, a rather gracious concession speech by Republican candidate Mitt Romney—and a burst of social media activity.
“As the results of the election were called by news organizations, the conversation on Twitter surged, hitting a peak of 327,452 Tweets per minute (TPM),” read Twitter’s Nov. 6 blog posting.
Obama’s own victory Tweet—“Four more years”—was retweeted more than 455,000 times. (It was his most retweeted Tweet ever, according to Twitter Government.) The accompanying photo was also much-“liked” on Facebook.
Heading into election night, a few enterprising researchers and Websites tried to use Twitter as a tool for predicting the eventual results. A small team headed by Oxford research fellow Mark Graham, for example, assembled an electoral-vote map based on 30 million geocoded Tweets that mentioned either Obama or Romney. As people across America headed into the voting booth, Crowdwire (a project of Bluefin Labs) set up a “Live Social Media Exit Poll.”
Both the Romney and Obama campaigns leveraged social media and Big Data in an attempt to get out the vote. According to Mother Jones, the Obama campaign’s Chicago headquarters enlisted a massive team of “almost 100 data scientists, developers, engineers, analysts and old-school hackers” to plow through mountains of data for actionable insight. A sizable portion of that data came from Facebook, Twitter, and other online sources.
The Romney campaign also relied on data-mining. “The political department has instructed its field staff to be more aggressive in collecting information on people who attend Romney rallies so that targeters can build models to predict not only how a person will vote,” read an article in Slate, “but their likelihood of attending campaign events or agreeing to volunteer.” Other articles described the GOP effort as involving thousands of commercially available databases.
Whatever the campaigns’ respective efforts involving social media and data, though, it’s now officially over. Let the inevitable analysis begin.