Not a Popularity Contest: Facebook “Likes” as Election Predictors

Posted by Shane Wade on February 06, 2017

For fun, an Illinois publication, Evanston Now, ranked their mayoral candidates based on Facebook “likes.” Facebook added an endorsement feature for political candidates, enabling supporters to publicly endorse (with optional comments). While politicians shouldn’t solely guide their campaigns by their social media presence and network, it is notable that the number of events the politician held were proportional to the amount of their “likes,” with Steve Hagerty having three events and the most likes of the six candidates.

Obviously, this form of polling is highly inaccurate for a myriad of reasons, including limited internet access for some voters and various interpretations of what a “like” means. In small localities, however, conducting polling can be cost-inefficient and ranked choice voting can be a valuable tool in understanding voter preferences, especially when there are multiple candidates running for one position.

While there hasn’t been a push for ranked choice voting in Evanston, there’s a clear precedent showing that ranked choice voting empowers voters in places ranging from small towns of 2,000 people to entire countries like Australia. Voters in Springfield, a city about 200 miles south of Evanston, use ranked choice voting for military and overseas voters in the event of a runoff. Evanston voters too have the power change their elections by getting involved and our Activist Toolkit is a great place to get started.

Whether Facebook “likes” are a good predictor of electoral outcomes for this local election will have to wait to be seen. The Evanston mayoral primary will be on Feb. 28.

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