As the 2012 presidential election approaches, striking differences continue to emerge between President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. The contrasts between their positions on hot-button issues like contraception, healthcare, marriage equality, and the economy may be obvious, but OhMyGov analytics also uncovers direct opposition between the candidates when it comes to the roles social media and the Web are playing in their campaigns.
President Obama's well-documented refusal to surrender his BlackBerry when he took office is but one example of his abiding love for modern technology. During the 2008 election cycle, he vowed to run a grassroots campaign powered by hope, change, and the world-wide web. As president he has continued to nurture a web-based connection with his constituents using popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter throughout his term. If his solid online presence is any indication, he has always included Internet marketing experts among both his campaign and White House staff.
This approach is in stark contrast to Mitt Romney and former GOP candidate Rick Santorum, both of whom fell victim to a so-called “Google-bomb” that rendered their names synonymous with unpleasant bodily fluids. Social sharing was the driving power behind those attacks, and months later, Romney's vulgar definition continues to appear near the top of Google's search results for his surname. A prank like that seems unlikely to doom his campaign, but it may indicate that his staff is ill-prepared to compete with Obama concerning modern technology.
Similarly, both politicians maintain profiles on the major social networks, but Romney's Internet popularity is questionable at best. According to our Leaderboards, he has 1,766,853 Facebook fans, a fraction of the president's 28,042,671, and although one would expect his numbers to be increasing sharply as the GOP moves toward his official nomination, he received only 39,916 new fans this week in comparison to Obama's 116,289.
The national and global bully pulpit of a sitting president can explain much of this difference, but Romney’s team is right to be concerned about their candidate’s relatively thin fan base on social media.
Popularity aside, the two men also appear to operate their social media accounts in very different ways. While the president's campaign sent 25 original tweets in the past week, Romney's sent only six.
Tweets sent from @barackobama and @whitehouse were generally positive in nature, quoting from the President's recent commencement speeches, sharing accomplishments, and commenting on legislative efforts. In comparison, @mittromney was decidedly negative, with four out of his six posts attacking Obama's performance. One can guess that the President's campaign advisors have recommended capitalizing on the upbeat approach that carried him through the last election, while Romney's are inclined to appeal to a certain base of citizens who prioritize voting out Obama over electing any specific individual.
Although we have to admit that social media is too new to be used as a definitive tool for its value cannot be ignored, especially when considering the impact young voters can have. In 2008, the Obama campaign was met with overwhelming enthusiasm among young people. Late April polling revealed that while some of that initial zeal has faded, the majority of younger citizens continue to support the president over any of the Republican candidates. His willingness to connect with them in the accessible, modern venue of the Internet can only help him with this particular constituency. If Romney's underwhelming participation in social media is any indication of the effort he intends to put into courting the youth vote, he may find himself facing an impossible hurdle come fall.
Written by Jessica Delbalzo
Edited by Richard Hartman