The Midterm Election According to Facebook (and 20 Million of Its Users)

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The Midterm Election According to Facebook (and 20 Million of Its Users)

Insights gleaned from the post of approximately 20 million Facebook users who interacted with the Facebook pages of candidates have been mapped out by the Wall Street Journal, which created a series of visual guides to hot-button issues in the run-up to this week’s elections.

Facebook’s Data Science Team dives into civic engagement data during each election cycle and didn’t disappoint for 2014. In their original blog post release, Facebook analyzed what the candidates said, their campaign styles, policy issues and more.

Of particular interest to the wall Street Journal was the “Who Responds?” analysis conducted by Facebook. The social media giant took the posts, comments and other stories created by users who interacted with candidate Page posts and categorized them for use the WSJ who then mapped out public sentiment on a number of issues.

Each of the maps illustrates the level of discussion around issues like economic equality, immigration, energy and the status of women. Darker shading indicates a greater level of discussion. So just how do your fellow Americans feel about these hot-button topics?

Employment & Economic Security Concerns According to Facebook Users

The economy is a hot topic in Wisconsin, district 5 in Colorado and parts of New Jersey. Voters in Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana seemed far less concerned with joblessness and the state of the economy, if the volume of discussion about it is any indication.

The majority of the country showed moderate interest in the topic, with much of the Midwest and eastern seaboard talking about it to some degree. In almost every district, jobs and the economy were at least a topic of conversation between candidates and their online constituents.

How Do Facebook Users Feel About Social Welfare, Poverty, and One Percenters?

This map illustrates the volume of conversation around a category of topics Facebook called “economic equality and mobility.”

Here, we see this wasn’t a topic of great debate among residents of the Midwest and Southwest states. In the Rust Belt, however, residents seem concerned about issues like social welfare, minimum wage, poverty and wealth distribution. Upstate New York and districts in Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Kentucky saw the most Facebook chatter about these issues; in one Ohio district, over 18% of the political discussion tracked on Facebook was about economic inequality.

Arizona, California, Texas Voters Discussing Immigration on Facebook

No surprises here, but voters in conservative Southern border states are discussing immigration more than their neighbors in the north. In fact, this map is almost an inversion of the one prior; clearly, the Rust Belt states aren’t nearly as concerned about immigration as economic inequality.

The volume of the conversation around immigration, though, may surprise a few. It was expected to be a major issue in this election and really isn’t panning out that way. Even where it’s being discussed most actively, just over 10% of voters are interacting with their candidates on Facebook on immigration issues.

Most Notable Thing About Energy & Environment Conversation is Lack Thereof

File this one under unexpected, but it seems hardly anyone in the Eastern US and conservative border states are talking about energy and the environment. In this category, Facebook included a wide variety of topics including fracking, climate change and renewable energy, yet as a whole the environment doesn’t seem to be much of a concern across the country, even with energy issues thrown in for good measure.

A few hotbeds of activity on the topic include districts in New York, Maine and Colorado, but even there it’s hardly a fever pitch; less than 10% of the political conversations tracked were on energy and the environment.

Women’s Issues Poorly Represented Across the Country

Despite a gender gap that has been widening for decades, women’s issues didn’t generate much pre-election buzz on Facebook. The measurement for this map was just 1-3% and few districts came anywhere close to the upper range even on that small scale.

In this category, Facebook was analyzing posts around contraception, gender inequality and the war on women. Most active in this arena was Colorado; with just seven districts in the state, five of them were among the top ten for volume of women’s issues discussion countrywide.

Health Care Not as Great an Election Concern As Expected

Last year’s uproar over the Affordable Care Act simply hasn’t translated into great concern among voters for this election. Most Facebook conversation around health care is happening in Republican districts, which should surprise no one, as Republicans have focused on health care ten times more than Democrats.

How Are Voters Interacting with Candidate Content on Facebook Pages?

Another interesting insight from Facebook’s report was how people interacted with candidate content in the campaign period.

Image: Facebook Data Science Team

Men were more vocal, accounting for a greater portion of the comments, while women preferred to Like candidate content without comment. This is unusual, notes Facebook, considering that previous studies showed that in general, women contribute more Comments as well as Likes.

It’s also worth noting that younger voters aren’t nearly as engaged as boomers. Women are more apt to interact with content the older they get, while men peak between 45 and 54 years of age and their interactions then decline.

Whether or not interaction and level of discussion greatly influences the way people plan to vote remains to be seen, but as usual, Facebook has been able to offer us an interesting peek behind the curtain of the collective conscious in the run-up to the midterm election!

Check out the full, interactive data maps at WSJ.com.  You can drill down into each district across the country to see the exact percentage of the political conversation that focused on each of the categories above.

Image credits: All maps from WSJ.com

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