It’s common the day after a debate to see commentary and analysis of “who won” or polls to gauge voter reaction. We thought it’d be interesting to measure the immediate social media reaction to the GOP debate held in Las Vegas on October 18, 2011 by looking at which candidates had the biggest increase in their social media following. We achieved this by measuring the number of Twitter and Facebook followers each candidate had prior to the debate, and compared that to the number of followers they had 12 hours after the end of the debate.
So when we compare the number of pre-debate followers with the amount of followers 12 hours after the debate, we see that Herman Cain picked up the most combined followers on Twitter and Facebook. Ron Paul and Mitt Romney also gained large numbers. Newt Gingrich fell somewhere in the middle, while the others were far behind. Michele Bachmann was the only candidate to lose followers in the 12 hours after the debate, with 50 Facebook unlikes. The chart below shows the number of new Twitter followers (not total followers) and new Facebook likes gained during the 12 hours following the debate.
There are many ways one can interpret these numbers. Gaining followers/likes doesn’t necessarily mean gained support. It does, at the very least, show increased interest in the candidate. In the case of Herman Cain, who is relatively new on the national scene, it can be surmised that his large increase in followers is indicative of voters seeking to know more about him. Ron Paul, who doesn’t have particularly impressive national poll numbers, is known to have some of the most zealous supporters, which could be one reasons he performed so well in this experiment.
It will be interesting to see how these numbers change over time for the candidates, and how they may or may not reflect traditional poll numbers.
It should be noted that during this same 12-hour period, President Barack Obama gained 12484 Twitter followers and 10224 Facebook likes, for a combined total of 22708 followers. None of the GOP candidates came close to those numbers, but the entire GOP field combined picked up 19090 followers, which approaches the President’s gains.
Note that this is in no way scientific, as there are obvious issues with such uncontrolled measurements…We get that! We are also making no claims based on these results. Further, it should be noted that Jon Huntsman didn’t participate in the debate, but was still included in these results for means of comparison.