Among U.S. House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates who have Facebook profiles, Republicans have more than twice as many fans as their Democratic opponents, according to the latest Facebook tabulation of nationwide data.
Eight of the top 10 candidates with the most Facebook fans are Republicans, with Arizona Sen. John McCain, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman taking the top three slots.
Whitman's support on the social network has also been the fastest growing of any candidate, with an average 5,200 fans "liking" her profile each day, the survey shows.
Meanwhile, Tea Party-backed candidates for U.S. Senate showed the most robust momentum toward building their online fan base heading into the final week of the campaign.
Nevada Republican Sharron Angle has added more than 6,700 fans since Oct. 20, giving her nearly 10 times as many Facebook fans as Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"It boils down to momentum and enthusiasm, and tried-and-true measures for predicting elections," the Facebook Political Team wrote in its analysis. "If the online world translates into real world votes, Angle definitely appears to be the favorite coming down the home stretch."
Angle and Reid are neck and neck, with the Republican holding a slight advantage, according to the most recent polls.
In 190 competitive U.S. House races tracked by Facebook, Republicans can claim a Facebook fan advantage in 127.
Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who chairs the House Tea Party Caucus, has the most fans of any U.S. representative and 100,000 more than her opponent, Democrat Tarryl Clark.
"This is a good indicator of which party has momentum and which groups are engaged," said University of Minnesota communications professor Heather LaMarre, who studies the role of social media in politics. "I am not sure this will translate into voter turnout, but if it does, we have opened the door to an entirely new way to predict elections."
The numbers, while far from scientific and not limited to supporters within a given state, broadly affirm what national polls and focus groups have been saying about the enthusiasm levels among supporters of both parties in recent weeks.
LaMarre said social media experts will be closely watching the returns Nov. 2 to see if Facebook fan bases are predictors of turnout at the polls.
"The people who are engaged regularly in social media to follow politics seem to be more informed of the issues, more committed to giving money and volunteering for campaigns, and those indicators are highly correlated to voter turnout," she said.
GOP Dominant in Social Media
The Facebook stats also bolster Republicans' claims that the party has more widely and effectively utilized social media tools since the 2008 presidential campaign, when the Washington Post and other media outlets crowned President Obama and Democrats "king of social networking."
Since 2008, GOP members of Congress have aggressively utilized Facebook and Twitter to engage constituents and amass larger, more active followings online.
"House Republicans demonstrate an unmatched ability to connect with the American people in the Internet's most popular communities," House Minority Leader John Boehner boasted in a news release in January.
Congressional Republicans do have more members registered on Twitter and have more Twitter followers than their Democratic counterparts, according to the site TweetCongress.org, which tracks the data.
Republicans are also the more active Tweeters, with Senate Republicans' Twitter handle "Senate_GOPs" averaging eight tweets per day.
"This is just one-upmanship," Minnesota professor LaMarre said of the GOP dominance since 2008. "It's political strategy. [The parties] are learning from each other in the social media space."