the numbers guy

Cain Facebook surge mirrors poll rise

Posted on: October 22, 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Facebook is sticky – many folks will have items (favourite bands, tv shows etc) in their ‘likes’ lists that are years out of date.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.

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