Over the past few months, Engage (a full-service digital agency geared towards working with political campaigns) attempted to map the politics of the social web by analyzing the partisanship associated with the users' bases of several social properties.
By using a predictive modeling of Facebook “Likes,” Engage tied political preferences and engagement to one’s choice of social media, and this info graphic was the result:
The info graphic presents plotted data based on the political orientation of each website’s user base. Data is based off of the website’s audience size on Facebook and is judged by its base support of either Obama or Romney, in addition to its level of political engagement. Political engagement is measured by topics as diverse as the presidential race, gay marriage, health care, and whether Kurt Busch should be banned from NASCAR.
The results mostly match what you would expect. Sites that tend to skew more towards commerce and finance are mostly populated by likely Romney voters while sites that tend to lean more towards self expression and breaking social buzz are more “liked” by likely Obama voters.
With the assumption that Facebook “likes” equates to site visitors, more conservatives are likely to visit Microsoft’s Bing to search the web, while liberals are more likely to use Google (big surprise). Zappos or Etsy is where Democrats would go to buy their shoes online, where most Republicans may use eBay or amazon.
Sites that show a higher political engagement index include Quora, BuzzFeed, and Wikipedia, which proves that with knowledge and information comes more political ambition. Visual pinboards like Pinterest and Tumblr. And social games like Angry Birds and FarmVille often have defined political leanings but lack high levels of political engagement.
Wordpress, a blog publishing platform, is the most non-partisan/bipartisan website, expressing a moderate political engagement, while YouTube holds the largest Facebook audience (other than Facebook itself) out of the websites used in the study.
There are a few shockers, such as Pinterest's conservative base and Hulu indexing a high political engagement, but altogether choosing the dominant political base is fairly easy on most of these websites. Although this study only covers the social web, it would be interesting to see a study on online news like The Daily Beast, Reuters, and Talking Points Memo. After all, news would be the easiest of all considering the preexisting bias most already offer—the political base would be apparent.
Even more so than in 2008, presidential candidates in 2012 will be forced to rely on the social web to win/buy votes, especially with the success Obama attained the first time around. It’s up to Romney and Obama to campaign in conjunction with sites like PayPal or BuzzFeed because of their large political engagements. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, and others will be ultimately necessary in that they are “swing” sites, where ground can be made for the candidate that gets his message heard.