Report: Romney Facebook Followers Take Orders Really Well

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The pundits don’t have full vote tallies to parse yet, but on the eve of Election 2012, there’s a plethora of data out there on how well Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have executed their communications strategies. The latest comes from a Washington researcher who’s parsed the candidates’ use of Facebook. His findings: Obama supporters love Michelle and the kids, while Romney supporters respond to direct requests for action.

American University communications professor Deen Freelon (husband of MoJo reporter Kate Sheppard) scraped both candidates’ official Facebook accounts for all the public comments posted to their walls since the Republican Party announced its support for Romney. “While doing so, I noticed some clear patterns in the kinds of content each group of followers showed most interest in,” Freelon wrote Sunday on his blog. “By charting the numbers of likes, shares, and comments for each message during the aforementioned time period, we can get a sense of when attention spiked and how much.”

When he looked at Team Obama’s five most-like posts, here’s what he found (click the image to embiggen):

The top five moments have nothing to do with politics. They’re generic family snapshots in the Rockwell mold, Freelon notes: “The wholesome sentiments these shots convey couldn’t be farther from the knock-down drag-out negativity flooding the airwaves and the Internet throughout the timeframe, which may explain why they were so popular among Obama fans.” 

That represents a sharp contrast with the same chart analysis of Romney’s most-liked Facebook posts:

“All of Romney’s top five most-liked posts were direct calls to push their ‘like’ count over some numerical threshold,” Freelon writes. “Romney’s fans seem to be more goal-oriented than Obama’s: rather than reveling in idyllic family scenes, they were most interested in showing off their support for Romney to their Facebook friends.”

The upshot? “Romney’s Facebook fans were more engaged in the campaign than Obama’s, who seemed less inclined to get political,” Freelon suggests. Even though Obama’s median “likes,” “shares,” and “comments” were consistently higher than Romney’s, the Republican’s site saw higher spikes when asked to “like” a page. The question is which Facebook-commenter constituencyslow and steady, or high highs—will correlate with vote-getting on Tuesday. Stay tuned for an answer.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend