Friends Still More Important than Follows

Inside the Beltway, Twitter dominates the conversation. Introductions are often followed by “Oh, I follow you on Twitter.” Articles are written about “Twitter wars” between operatives and a column analyzing Hillary Clinton’s first tweet was featured prominently in the Washington Post. Journalists and campaign operatives often say that Twitter is the last thing they check before going to bed and the first thing they check when they wake up in the morning (this campaign operative included).

However, it is Facebook, which is given comparatively scant attention in Washington, that is still the dominant force in social media, dwarfing Twitter in size and influence with both the general population and with those age 18-29.

In the most recent survey of adults age 18-29 by the Harvard Institute of Politics, the vast majority (83%) of respondents reported having an account on Facebook, while just one-third (33%) said they have an account on Twitter.

Given these numbers, it comes as no surprise that Facebook is the far more powerful and effective campaign advocacy tool among younger voters, as seen in the table below.

Social Media Activity Percentage Among 18-29 Year Olds^
Liked a Political Issue on Facebook 27%
Liked a Political Candidate on Facebook 22%
Used your Facebook Status to Advocate for a Political Position 19%
Used Twitter to Advocate for a Political Position 6%

^Note: For comparison purposes, all data is shown off the TOTAL base of respondents in the Harvard IOP poll. As a result, data shown here will not match data from the Harvard IOP topline, which is shown off the skip base. The skip base is defined as only respondents who were asked a previous question or questions. For example, only the 33% of respondents who said they had an account on Twitter were asked if they used Twitter to advocate for a political position.

Additionally, the recent  survey of 18-29 year olds by the College Republican National Committee makes clear that Facebook is not just the dominant source of social media among younger voters, but is also the dominant NEWS source with this group.  Fully 58% of registered voters age 18-29 get news from Facebook at least once a week, more than ANY other news source tested. Twenty-eight percent (28%) said they got news from Twitter at least once a week.

News Source % of 18-29 Year Olds Getting
News At Least Once a Week
Facebook 58%
Local TV News 56%
Yahoo News 44%
CNN 40%
Hard Copy of Newspaper 38%
Fox News 36%
Newspaper Websites 35%
Blogs 31%
MSN News 30%
The Daily Show 29%
Twitter 28%
The Colbert Report 26%
NPR 21%
Political Talk Radio 21%

To be clear, none of these data are meant to minimize or dismiss the importance of Twitter to a campaign. Twitter is a powerful tool and should certainly be an integral part of any online outreach.

Rather, the data here are meant to highlight just how important it is for ANY campaign to have an active and consistently updated Facebook presence, especially if the campaign wants to reach out to and engage younger voters. There is simply no better way to reach these voters.

Jim Hobart is a Vice President at Public Opinion Strategies. Please follow him on Twitter @HobartPOS and please like Public Opinion Strategies on Facebook

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