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Popularity Contest: Can Facebook and Twitter Predict Election Results?

Popularity helps in politics, especially having people who "like" you

ByABC News
November 24, 2010, 12:28 PM

Nov. 25, 2010— -- Popularity helps in politics, especially having "friends," "followers" and people who "like" you.

In November's elections, the candidate who more people "liked" on Facebook won in 71 percent of Senate elections. Twitter was even more accurate, with the candidates with more followers winning in 74 percent of elections.

Facebook says it watched 118 races in the Senate and the House, and found 77 winners had more "likes" than their opponents did. Furthermore, candidates with twice as many fans as their opponent won by at least 3.9 percent.

Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, were often better predictors of election results than how much money a candidate raised and spent, according to Facebook. In 42 of the races Facebook analyzed, the winner had more "likes" but less money.

The two Senate candidates who spent the most of their own money, Republican Linda McMahon of Connecticut and Democrat Jeff Greene of Florida, did not win. Greene did not win the Democratic primary. McMahon spent almost $42 million and Green spent close to $24 million on the primary, according to the FEC.

But as of November 1, McMahon had only 15 more "likes" on Facebook than the winner, Richard Blumenthal, even though she spent more than seven times as much.

In Florida, Jeff Greene had only 644 "likes" on Facebook compared to the Democratic primary winner, Kendrick Meek, with 24,135 "likes." (Meek lost the general election to Republican Marco Rubio.)

Furthermore, according to the FEC, six out of the ten top-spending Senate candidates did not win election.

"The consensus is that money makes a difference but it's hard to quantify," said Andrew Gellman, a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University. "[Campaign finances] are important, but non-linear. The extra $10 million does not help as much as the first million."