Snooki's Facebook Fans Were More Likely to Say They Voted Than Mitt Romney's


Those who "liked" the Republican candidate were not enthusiastic voters.



On Election Day earlier this month, Facebook promoted to its users a little button that people could click to announce their civic behavior to their friends. The idea -- hope, really -- is that by making the voting experience social, more people will participate in our democratic process. In 2010, just such a button was calculated to result in some 340,000 additional votes.

For 2012, our presidential election, precise analysis of that button's effects is still months away, but already preliminary data about who used it are starting to be released, filling out our picture of the role Facebook played on Election Day.

First, the top-line numbers: More than 9 million clicked the Facebook's "I Voted" button (varyingly labeled either "I'm a voter" or "I'm voting), some 8.6 percent of the U.S. Facebook population. (It's unclear in the post from Facebook's Data Science team whether they've included people who did not log into Facebook and those younger than 18 in that calculation.)

Women, unsurprisingly, were more likely to click the button than men. As Eytan Bakshy reports, "Women are disproportionately more likely to share in general on Facebook. Compared to comments, likes and status updates, voting has the same amount of gender imbalance as we see in other forms of communication." Overall, the patterns emerging on Facebook are pretty much what you would expect: In addition to women, young people were more likely to share their voting on Facebook, they were also more likely to do so on a mobile device. Democrats and people who otherwise identified as liberal of one sort or another were also more likely to click the button.

All that's well and good, maybe even a bit boring, but the real fun comes when the data team looked for correlations between the vote button and having "liked" other pages, such as those belonging to celebrities and, as Facebook calls them, "non-human entitities." And by these two measures, perhaps not quite Nate-Silverian in their precision but revealing nonetheless, you can see very quickly some big problems for Mitt Romney.

First, a look at how Mitt Romney stacked up against other humans.


Solomon Messing, Cameron Marlow, and Eytan Bakshy

Not so great: Facebook users who have "liked" Kim Kardashian, Snooki, and Paula Deen all clicked the vote button at a greater frequency than Mitt Romney's own official fans. Also: Jamie Foxx, George Takei, Glenn Beck, Maya Angelou, Taraji P. Henson, Will Smith, Ellen Degeneres, Martin Lawrence, and Katt Williams. For his part, Barack Obama did pretty well, though he was still a bit behind Paul Ryan and Michelle Obama (who probably gets a bit of an edge from her Facebook-clicking female fans).

Everyone's fans unsurprisingly outperformed the site-wide average, probably due at least in part to this being a population more likely to share on Facebook in general. African-American celebrities make a particularly strong showing on this list, which, Bakshy notes, "which is consistent with the excitement and high levels of turnout seen in African-American communities in this election. Many of these celebrities posted encouragements to vote on their Facebook pages."

For Mitt Romney the picture is no brighter when it comes to "non-human entities," the top two of which were pages for "Binders Full of Women" and "Big Bird," jokes at Romney's expense that emerged following the debates. The rest of the non-human entities are less well-associated with any particular political affiliation.


Solomon Messing, Cameron Marlow, and Eytan Bakshy

Of course, for the time being these data are all correlational not causal, but the beauty of Facebook's Election Day button was that it was rolled out in a way that created experiment and control groups. As social scientists begin to examine these trends more in the months ahead, they'll be able to see not just which people clicked the button, but how many people may have actually gone to the polls because they saw all their friends clicking away.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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