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US Presidential Election Barack Obama

Obama wins over Romney in US presidential election as far as social media is concerned


By Ishbel Macleod, PR and social media consultant

November 6, 2012 | 7 min read

The last Presidential election was ruled as a social media victory, with 22 per cent having learned about candidates through social media, a statistic which has gone up to 51 per cent for this election. But how is social media being used by the candidates, and what effect is this having?

With it being deemed that the vote for tonight's election is ‘too close to call’, with voters in swing states having all the power, word of mouth has been ruled as a key influencer of voting decisions – but these days that includes all thing social.

Although Obama and Romney have been out and about in the swing states trying to influence as many people as possible, their social media presences allow them to connect with a much larger percentage of the public.

It was discovered by a Pew Research Centre study that 24 per cent of Romney and 19 per cent of Obama’s posts during a two week period were about the economy, with tax policy becoming another factor. The research showed that there was not as much crossover between the two campaigns as there were between Obama and McCain in 2008, as well as the agenda having moved on from veterans, agriculture, ethics and Iraq being the main debates.

Digital activity, Twitter and Facebook usage are all covered in sections below.


Digital activity and response

The study found that in terms of the number of posts in months leading up to the election, Obama was a firm leader: posting 404 posts on Twitter, 106 blogs and 21 YouTube videos. This compares to 16 Twitter posts, 55 blogs and 10 YouTube videos by Romney. It was found that in return for the content, Obama received a higher level of response from the public, with 150,106 retweets, compared to Romney’s 8,601. However, if you break this down by number of tweets, it would suggest each one of Obama’s tweets were retweeted 371.5 times, whereas Romney’s had a higher level of engagement, at 537.5 retweets per individual tweet.So what does that mean? Is less content, which is written well, more likely to get noticed? A more in-depth look into Twitter and Facebook insights will be given in the next sections, with research from Mindshare, Twitter and CNN.Lee Rainie, director of Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, said in a speech in June: “One of the most interesting things we’ve seen is that the more people care about politics, the more engaged they are, the more likely it is that they’re talking about politics and social networking sites and Twitter, and the more that they are organizing their social networks around politics. “Now, a majority of Americans use the Internet, use their cell phones, use social networking websites to interact in politics. And so the campaigns know that this is the place where they can engage with voters with new strategies. They don’t – they use different strategies on the Internet than they use on some of those other channels. And that’s been interesting to see how they’ve incorporated special Internet strategies into their campaigns.“So we are monitoring this work now in the campaign. Obviously, both campaigns are very interested at the presidential level in using new technologies to try to understand voters, try to appeal to voters, try to get people to talk to their friends about the campaigns. And so we will actually see an increase, probably, in all of the measures that we take about the role of the Internet in politics. There will be more activity in 2012 than there was in 2008. And in 2008, we saw that there was more activity than there had been in 2004.”


Twitter has been keeping the public up to date on the election via its Twindex page, providing updates on the politicians, the key areas debated, and what tweets get the most support from each state.According to the most up to date results, from 5 November, Obama leads at 66, up 7 points from Sunday, while Romney stands at 56.According to the Topsy analysis, Obama’s level topped at 74 on 5 August, while Romney lingered at 39; while Romney’s top level was 60, on 28 August, while Obama was on 32.

Twitter continued: net difference in swing states Twindex scores

However, according to Mindshare research, Republicans (31 per cent) are more likely than Democrats (19 per cent) and Independents (25 per cent) to follow the presidential election news on social media sites.The research also found that at six per cent, Democrats are half as likely as Republicans and Independents (12 per cent) to say “seeing a candidates’ posts on social media” is the most important to them when deciding who to vote for in the presidential election.Despite this, Obama does seem to be gaining more traction on Twitter than Romney, according to the figures from the social media website.On Twitter, three per cent of the 404 Obama campaign tweets were retweets of citizen posts, while Romney's only retweet was something his son Josh had written: hinting that the social aspect of social media was not seen as hugely important during the campaign, rather as a platform to make views known.This compares to the 2008 election, where 25 per cent engaged politically on a social media network, while 21 per cent posted original content relating to the election, according to MDG Advertising statistics.


The figures for the daily number of likes on Facebook for Obama and Romney are almost neck to neck, according to the figures from CNN.It can be seen that across the past month, slightly more conversations have been about Obama than Romney, although vice president candidate Ryan is leading compared to Democrat candidate Biden.It can also be noted that although Obama has ‘beaten’ Romney on the number of Facebook likes (31m compared to 12m), in terms of vice president candidates, Biden has 504k likes, compared to Ryan’s 5.2m.When looking back at the Pew Research covered in the digital activity section, it can be seen that Facebook was the one area where Romney posted more than Obama during the two week period studied: making 34 posts compared to 27.Studying the Facebook pages for Romney and Obama, The Drum found that Romney adds a level of personalisation to the messages, using ‘I’, for example ‘It's all on the line and I'm asking for your vote.’However, Obama’s page uses his title, ‘President Obama’: ‘Why are you voting for President Obama? Leave your No. 1 reason in the comments and tag a friend to let them know.’This could be a subliminal of letting the public know who is currently president, and linking the word with Obama, but does this distance him from the public in a way that Romney, using first person speech doesn’t, given the fact it is social media? How do you think each of the candidates have done on social media, and do you think campaign strategies using Twitter and Facebook have changed since 2008?

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