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Christine O'Donnell, Meg Whitman, Jerry Brown lead social-media chatter in run-up to midterms

October 28, 2010 |  3:59 pm


Which politician is dominating chatter on the social-media networks in the run-up to the mid-terms, now just five days away? 

Surprise: It’s Christine O’Donnell.  

And though Delaware senate candidate O’Donnell trails opponent Chris Coons markedly in real-world opinion polls, her outlandish statements on the 1st Amendment, witchcraft and masturbation have generated online publicity that even California’s Meg Whitman can’t buy. 

It’s important to preface the latest online study on social-media trends by marketing firm Alterian by noting that voters’ behavior online bears little resemblance to real-world activity. We’ve noted before the wide disparity between gubernatorial candidate Whitman’s number of Facebook followers and her opponent Jerry Brown’s -- a nearly 75,000 difference -- yet Whitman still trails Brown in the latest polls of likely voters by a wide and increasing margin. 

The social-media study tracked online comments, or “chatter,” on senate races in Illinois, California, Florida, Delaware, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania; and gubernatorial races in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York.  The study gleaned its results from blogs, social media sites, mainstream media comments pages and online message boards. 

The data were collected from Sept. 18 to Oct. 25. The volume of traffic increased steadily as the elections neared, with a decrease in “chatter” at the weekends.

In number of  mentions of senate candidates, O’Donnell  of Delaware led nearest candidate ...

...  Harry Reidof Nevada by almost 2 to 1, generating more than 100,000 mentions across all online media since mid-September.  

Nevada’s Sharron Angle closely followed Reid, ahead of Kentucky’s Rand Paul, California’s Barbara Boxer and Delaware’s Coons. Florida’s Charlie Crist generated slightly more traffic than opponent Marco Rubio in their Senate race. Lousiana’s Charlie Melancon was last. Interestingly, his Republican opponent and prolific social-media user, incumbent, David Vitter,  didn’t fare much better.  Republicans led chatter 65% to 35%, and Delaware is the most talked-about Senate race nationwide, with both statistics largely driven by O’Donnell. 


(Graphic supplied by Alterian)

In gubernatorial races, California candidates Whitman and Brown led the field, with Whitman the second most talked-about pol overall behind O’Donnell. Carl Paladino of New York is the third most talked-about candidate for governor, followed by Florida’s Rick Scott and New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

Unsurprisingly, the gubernatorial races in California, New York and Texas are the most discussed, with California’s tally a plurality, or registering more chatter than all the other races combined.     
Drilling down into individual senate races, Reid polls perhaps surprising favorability ratings over Angle, and he also leads in amount of chatter. California’s Barbara Boxer leads Carly Fiorina in both number of mentions and favorability, and although O’Donnell leads Coons markedly in volume of chatter, favorability tilts toward Coons. 

In gubernatorial races, Brown leads Whitman in amount of chatter generated while Whitman leads Brown slightly in favorability ratings. Caused by a recent spike in chatter surrounding his remarks on homosexuals, Paladino leads Cuomo in chatter generated but trails slightly in favorability ratings. In Texas, Rick Perry leads Bill White markedly in volume of chatter, but trails slightly in favorability.



(Graphic supplied by Alterian)

Alterian’s Jim Reynolds told the Ticket: “We wanted to look at the overall impact of the races that had the largest spotlight. We used public Web sources, including Google and other search engines to first uncover which candidates had the largest web presence. We then determined the top 10 candidates and top five races for both the senate and gubernatorial elections.” 

Alterian analyzed the data by candidate, race, campaign and political party. It used two key metrics:   volume, which  looked at both the percentage share of voice, and the actual volume, or number of posts; and  favorability, which is calculated by tallying the number of positive posts and neutral posts, divided by the total number of positive, neutral and negative posts.  

Previously Alterian analyzed volume of chatter and favorability ratings of TV talking heads, with Glenn Beck generating the most volume of posts by a big margin. More of Alterian’s methodology can also be found here. 

Conclusions?  Instead of spending countless millions on boosting online presence, maybe candidates should just slip in a remark about witchcraft every so often to scare up some comments. A trick or treat for social-media fans, so to speak.  

-- Craig Howie    

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