• Social Media Poll #3: Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee enter the presidential race with advantages, but Bernie Sanders still surges

    by  • May 13, 2015 • politics, Social Media, White House 2016 • 0 Comments

    Dr. Ben Carson

    Dr. Ben Carson speaks at Citizens United Freedom Summit in Greenville S.C. in May 2015.
    [Photo by Michael Vadon, through Creative Commons license and Flickr]

    Bernie Sanders, the scruffy U.S. Senator from Vermont, continues to have social-media momentum in his second week running for the presidency even as three new Republicans entering the race dominated the headlines. More than 88,000 people signed up to “like” Sanders on Facebook or follow him on Twitter, in the six days from May 5 to May 11.

    In that, he far outpaced new followers and likers signing up for the newly announced Republican candidates, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabee. Sanders also outpaced Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who signed up 33,000 people in those six days.

    Here’s how it looks by candidate:

    Candidate New Facebook likes and Twitter followers May 5 through May 11 
    Sanders 88,781
    Carson 47,457
    Clinton 33,139
    Huckabee 14,874
    Rubio 11,815
    Cruz 7,892
    Fiorina 6,802
    Paul 5,961


    You can see that Ben Carson, the conservative Republican neurosurgeon who has never held public office, prompted a lot of interest on social media after he announced his campaign on May 4. He came in second behind Sanders in the number of new Twitter and Facebook fans he generated — some 47,000 people. Clinton was third at 33,000 new fans, and Mike Huckabee, the former Republican governor of Arkansas who announced on May 5, came in fourth, with almost 15,000 new fans in those six days. Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who entered the GOP race on May 4, added some 6,800 new fans.


    Now let’s summarize the total number of likes and followers for all the announced presidential candidates, in both parties. Here’s how it looks:

    Candidate Total Facebook likes and Twitter followers as of May 11
    Hillary Clinton 4,302,467
    Rand Paul 3,208,943
    Ted Cruz 2,985,996
    Mike Huckabee 2,089,245
    Marco Rubio 1,871,144
    Bernie Sanders 1,832,560
    Ben Carson 1,701,499
    Carly Fiorina    417,282


    Clinton remains the clear leader in social media reach, followed by Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, but Mike Huckabee, in his first week in the race, entered at 4th place. The former Arkansas governor has been a popular radio and TV personality for many years, most recently on Fox News, and has had Facebook and Twitter accounts since 2008. Ben Carson, too, has been a well known national public figure, writing six best-selling books since 1992. He has had active Facebook and Twitter accounts since 2013.

    Still, Bernie Sanders, from tiny Vermont, has more total social media reach than Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina, who ran and lost a race for U.S. Senate in the mega-state of California in 2010. Also of note, Sanders has 1.4 million Facebook likes to Clinton’s 811,000. In fact, all of the GOP candidates, except Carly Fiorina, have more Facebook likes than Hillary Clinton. She far outnumbers everyone on Twitter, but if I were the Clinton campaign, I’d pay more attention to Facebook. Millions of Americans use Facebook every day, far more than do Twitter. Still, to be fair, Hillary’s campaign account on Facebook just began on April 10, so it is new. The senators running for president, in contrast, repurposed their old Senate campaign accounts into their presidential campaign accounts.

    Let’s look at the differences between Facebook and Twitter. Remember that 70 percent of Americans online use Facebook and about 23 percent of Americans online use Twitter, according to the Pew Research Center.

    Candidate New Facebook Likes, May 5-11
    Sanders 76,305
    Carson 40,895
    Clinton 13,093
    Huckabee 12,086
    Rubio 9,852
    Cruz 4,488
    Paul 4,128
    Fiorina 3,664
    Candidate New Twitter followers
     May 5 – 11
    Clinton 20,046
    Sanders 12,476
    Carson 6,562
    Cruz 3,404
    Fiorina 3,138
    Huckabee 2,788
    Rubio 1,963
    Paul 1,833


    What do we see here? Bernie Sanders won the week on Facebook easily, pulling down 76,000 new likes, with Carson second at 40,000 and then Clinton at 13,000 and Huckabee at 12,000 new likes.

    On Twitter, however, Clinton continues to lead as she has for weeks. She pulled down 20,000 new followers, outpacing Sanders who pulled in 12,000, followed by Carson at 6,500 and Ted Cruz at 3,400.

    Marco Rubio bears watching. In GOP insider circles and the punditry, Rubio is the candidate everyone is watching. He’s young, articulate, Hispanic, and in his speeches consciously tries to reach out to people who have modest incomes. In this week he outpolled Ted Cruz in drawing new followers on Facebook but lagged Cruz in attracting new followers on Twitter. And Sanders, from small Vermont, has more Facebook followers than does Rubio, from Florida, with its 19 million people. So far, the insiders’ excitement about Rubio is not matched by surges in social media popularity for the Floridian. But it is early.

    Finally, let’s look at potential GOP presidential candidates and see how they’re doing on social media.

    Unannounced Candidate Total Facebook likes
    nd Twitter followers
    Rick Perry 1,492,707
    Chris Christie    728,968
    Rick Santorum    488,135
    Scott Walker    397,193
    Jeb Bush    360,005
    Bobby Jindal    258,728
    Lindsey Graham    192,575
    John Kasich    177,408


    Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is way out in front of the potential unannounced presidential GOP candidates with nearly 1.5 million fans on Facebook and Twitter, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with 728,000 and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum at 488,000. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who does well in national opinion polls, is next with 397,000 fans followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with 360,000 social media fans.

    Obviously this is a measure of self-selecting social-media enthusiasts, and polls show that Walker and Bush are strong potential candidates. If they announce, their social-media reach will expand almost overnight, as did the other candidates when entering the race. But they start at a pretty low base.

    Just a note: In these counts, I added up all of the likes on verified Facebook accounts and followers on verified Twitter accounts. Some elected officials have two accounts on each, others do not. If they are official, I added the numbers together.

    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.

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