the numbers guy

Archive for October 2011

For the past few months I’ve been keeping an eye on the Facebook followings of the GOP primary candidates – I’ve found it interesting to see the extent to which the rate of growth of their online following mirrors the ‘real world’ ups and downs of each candidate on the campaign trail.

Since my last look at Facebook followings a month ago, the big story of the campaign has been the surge in the polls of Herman Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza. Some polls even show Mr Cain leading, others within striking distance of frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Is this surge reflected in Mr Cain’s Facebook growth? Well, here’s how each candidate’s Facebook following looked in mid-October (numbers are from just under a week ago):

Here’s the growth since mid-September:

And that month-on-month growth expressed as a percentage.

The remarkable 61.6% growth in Mr Cain’s Facebook following – achieved in just a month – clearly mirrors the growth in his poll rating. This doesn’t happen the other way around – a candidate who’s poll ratings have declined is more likely to see stagnation in his/her Facebook following, rather than to see an outright decline.

Although Michele Bachmann did manage to pull off a small -0.5% decline, it is the rate of growth that may be the more telling indicator of momentum (or otherwise) in the ‘real’ or offline world. I imagine the most obvious reason for this is that the process of ‘liking’ on Facebook is sticky – many folks will have items (favourite bands, tv shows etc) in their ‘likes’ lists that are years out of date.

As to where things go from here, while Mr Cain’s 61.6% growth clearly dwarfs that of the other candidates, we’ve seen this sort of sudden surge before. Rick Perry’s Facebook following grew 78.6% in the month after he joined the race. Since then Mr Perry has seen a steep decline in his rate of growth – to 26.9% from mid-August to mid-September, and down to just 4.8% over the past month. Time will tell whether the same fate awaits Mr Cain.


It’s been a hectic couple of weeks in Canadian politics, with elections taking place in Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland & Labrador, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

Results are now in, with Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and NDP supporters all having at least something to smile about. The two major trends were reduced turnout and continuity – in each election the incumbent party was returned to office.

Last Monday, Robert Ghiz’s PEI Liberals won a resounding 22-5 majority – although, given pre-election speculation they might be wiped out, the provincial Progressive Conservatives have some reason for encouragement.  They did better than expected, are within 12 points of the Liberals, and will be particularly pleased to have picked up seats like Tignish-Palmer Road in the west of the island. The PEI NDP and Green parties failed to make an impact, each polling under 5%:

On Tuesday, Greg Selinger’s Manitoba NDP won a record fourth consecutive term in office. The NDP won 37 seats (+1 from 2007), the Progressive Conservatives 19, with Manitoba Liberal leader Dr Jon Gerrard retaining his seat in Winnipeg’s River Heights division (the Liberals lost their only other seat). The PCs closed the gap in terms of votes, but their leader Hugh McFadyen fell on his sword on election night after anticipated seat gains failed to materialise:

Only in Ontario was the incumbent party reduced from majority to minority status, and Dalton McGuinty didn’t sound too displeased on election night – he was within a single seat of a majority and neither the PCs nor the NDP seem keen on another election any time soon:

In Newfoundland & Labrador Kathy Dunderdale’s PCs won an expected third consecutive term, with the Liberals just about edging out the NDP in seats to retain official opposition status. The NDP will however take consolation from the impressive tripling of their vote – from 8.2% in 2007 to 24.6% this year:

Last but not least, two of Canada’s three arctic territories also went to the polls. The Northwest Territories uses a non-party system for it’s territorial government. In the Yukon, the incumbent centre-right Yukon Party was returned to office with 11 seats (up 1 seat from 2006) – the territorial NDP will be pleased to have overtaken the Liberals, doubling their previous number of seats to become the official opposition:

Election season isn’t over yet – Saskatchewan votes on November 7, with most polling evidence still pointing towards a victory for Brad Wall’s incumbent Saskatchewan Party. If Wall does retain office, that’ll make a remarkable 6 out of 6 sweep for provincial and territorial incumbents this year.

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