Can Facebook and Twitter predict election results better than polls?

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Washington, Nov 27 (ANI): Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are slowly gaining ground in politics too - in fact, many wonder if the social networking sites could predict election results.

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.

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, reports ABC News.

For instance, 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.

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

But even Facebook and Twitter may have drawbacks.

For example, Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, a tea party Republican running for Senate, had more Facebook and Twitter fans than Democrat Chris Coons did. But she lost resoundingly, by nearly 17 percent.

For some candidates neither money nor friends help. In the California Governor Race, Meg Whitman had more Facebook followers, but still lost the race.

"[Social media] provides information about comparisons...trends and changes could be informative on the subset of people on it," said Gellman.

However, he cautioned, "You get more information out of it if you respect limitations. If you try to get too much, you get nothing."

Facebook and Twitter were also less accurate at predicting who won the youth vote than the total vote.

Facebook correctly predicted 45 percent of the winners of the 18-to-29-year-old vote, and Twitter correctly predicted 55 percent of the races for which exit poll data on younger voters was available.

Social media are also less reliable than survey and poll data, the current most accurate way to predict election results.

"This year, the polls were spot on. People answer surveys sincerely. If you support the Republican and you lie, you make the Democrat look better," Peter Levine, the Director of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.

"Facebook will be the single most important communication tool of this decade. Politicians who realize this are forward thinkers, or at least good marketers... I would not vote for a candidate who did not have a Facebook and Twitter presence," said Chad MacDonald, a Facebook user from Los Angeles.

MacDonald says he follows over 25 politicians on Facebook, and he's on the Twitter feeds of over 100 politicians.

But that's not true for everyone.

"I voted for the candidates that I 'liked' on Facebook if I was able to," said Facebook user Sharon Dwyer of Philadelphia, who said she likes six candidates on Facebook.

"[Social media] is interesting and promising...It is intriguing o think of social media as a new method [to predict election esults]," said Levine. (ANI)

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