• Bernie Sanders: small-state Senator has big social-media mojo

    by  • May 3, 2015 • Bernie Sanders, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, politics, Rand Paul, Social Media, Ted Cruz, White House 2016 • 0 Comments

    Bernie Sanders speaking in April in D.C.

    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in Washington D.C. at a rally in April. Photo courtesy of American Federation of Government Employees through Common Core license and Flickr.

    I think Bernie Sanders running for the White House is a sign of American political health. Now, I know we have sickness aplenty in our body politic with hyper partisanship and an inability to discuss civilly and make sensible decisions about hard national problems. But that Sanders, a quirky, lefty politician from the even quirkier yet charming Green Mountain State can stroll out of the Capitol building and, in a 10 minute informal news conference with reporters, announce his candidacy while laying out plainly the issues that he’ll campaign on, with no notes, no teleprompters, fanfare or grandeur, is a good sign.

    I don’t know if a self-declared socialist Vermonter can win or not. But he is addressing issues that many people care about – money in politics, income inequality, climate change, higher education. And don’t forget what another Vermonter, former Gov. Howard Dean, did in 2003 and 2004 when he ran for the Democratic nomination for president. He won only one presidential primary contest – Vermont – but he transformed American politics through his platform to reform health care and his early adoption of social media.

    On that note, let’s take a look at Bernie Sanders’s social media reach. It’s pretty sizable for a guy who hails from the state that ranks 49 of 50 in population size.

    Bernie Sanders Social Media Account   Followers or Likes as of May 3, 2015
    Twitter (presidency) 25,140
    Twitter (Senate) 305,461
    Facebook (presidency) 363,447
    Facebook (Senate) 1,014,698
    Total Reach 1,708,746


    Like most of the office holders running for president, Sanders has two Twitter and two Facebook accounts – one on each social media platform for his presidential campaign and a second on each platform that is more about his work in the U.S. Senate. Undoubtedly people who follow or like one may also follow or like the other. So there will be a lot of duplicates. But we can’t know how many followers are duplicates from one account to another. Facebook and Twitter can’t tell us that.

    Sanders’s Senate-oriented social media accounts have far more followers now than do his presidential accounts. But he only declared officially for the presidency three days ago, and since his announcement on April 30 until today (May 3), when I took a snapshot of the numbers, his total number of followers and likes grew by 72,000 people, or about 1,000 people per hour.

    Sanders has a total social media potential reach of 1,708,746 people online adding up his followers on Twitter and likes on Facebook. If you’re a progressive and really want Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from Massachusetts, to run, her total social media followers are 2.5 million. She would slot in behind Ted Cruz, and ahead of Marco Rubio and Sanders.

    Let’s see how Sanders compares to the other declared candidates as of May 3:

    Candidate Facebookpresidency FacebookSenate TwitterPresidency TwitterSenate Population of home state Total
    Hillary Clinton        794,290 3,463,868 NY 19.7m 4,258,158
    Rand Paul 1,908,616 683,920 608,363 KY 4.4m 3,200,899
    Ted Cruz 1,232,388 897,557 403,755 440,918 TX 29.9m 2,974,618
    Marco Rubio 838,065 267,733 732,724 18,009 FL 19.9m 1,856,531
    Bernie Sanders 363,447 1,014,698 25,140 305,461 VT 626,000 1,708,746


    As in my first Social Media Poll, the rank order remains unchanged: Clinton first, followed by Paul, Cruz, Rubio, and now Sanders.  Clinton remains the Twitter powerhouse; Rand Paul the Facebook leader.  Last week I included only the number of followers or likes for the social media accounts set up for the candidates’ runs for the presidency. This week  I added in the total number of followers and likes for the separate social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter that are geared towards the candidate’s Senate activities.

    And I put in the populations of the candidates’ home states. It is logical to surmise that senators from larger population states would have higher number of social media followers. But if it worked that way Ted Cruz, from populous Texas, would have the most total followers. He doesn’t. Rand Paul, from smallish Kentucky has significantly more than Cruz. And Bernie Sanders is right up there with the other candidates even though Vermont is tiny, just 626,000 people. Clearly Sanders is a national draw in social media.

    Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio keep up two accounts each on Facebook and Twitter, one posts about their campaigns for the presidency, and the second posts about their actions in the U.S. Senate. Rand Paul, similarly, has two Facebook accounts and two Twitter accounts, but he hasn’t posted on his second Twitter account @DrRandPaul, since early in 2014, so I leave that one out of the table. Clinton has only one social media account each for Facebook and Twitter.

    For this second Social Media Poll, I dropped the number of Instagram followers as they are still relatively small and some candidates don’t have official Instagram accounts yet.

    Here are the links to the various official social media accounts for the candidates:

    Hillary Clinton on Facebook, and on Twitter

    Rand Paul: 2016 race on Facebook, and Senator Rand Paul on Facebook; and @RandPaul on Twitter

    Ted Cruz, 2016 race, on Facebook, and Senator Ted Cruz on Facebook; 2016 race on Twitter @tedcruz, and Senate Twitter account @SenTedCruz

    Marco Rubio: 2016 race on Facebook, and Senator Marco Rubio on Facebook; 2016 race on Twitter @marcorubio, and Senate Twitter account @SenRubioPress

    Bernie Sanders: 2016 race on Facebook and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Facebook; 2016 race on Twitter @BernieSanders, and Senator Sanders on Twitter @SenSanders.

    Stay tuned for more Social Media Polls.


    Patrick Pexton has been a journalist for three decades. He most recently was editor-in-chief of The Frederick News-Post, a daily newspaper and website serving Maryland's largest county by geography. He has served as the ombudsman for The Washington Post, the deputy editor of National Journal, an editor and reporter at the Military Times, and a local reporter in four states.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *