The Republican presidential candidacy is still far from decided, based on the split primaries and mixed polls so far. So here’s another source for trying to figure who’s really pulling ahead — the number of new Facebook fans that each candidate is getting, according to the Inside Facebook Election Tracker.
Mitt Romney is finally making some strong gains this month, in contrast to his Facebook performance over December. By “strong gains” I mean he’s been attracting a roughly similar number of fans to Ron Paul, the candidate who normally dominates on the web (and the clear leader last month). The two have fought for the daily lead for most of January, except for when Rick Santorum surged around his Iowa primary win on the 3rd.
Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, managed to win South Carolina on the 21st, which corresponded with his biggest gains on Facebook. But he’s still way weaker than the others. And the rest of the candidates are no longer registering any meaningful gains, whether or not they’ve officially dropped out.
Overall, Romney still has the most Facebook fans among Republicans, with 1.39 million. Paul is a distant second at 800,000. Gingrich is down at 250,000 and Santorum a pitiful 90,000.
Of course, these numbers only say so much about who’s actually the most popular. Fan growth can come through inorganic methods like Facebook ads, fan page promotions, or clever use of the news feed. And fans can come from anywhere in the world; they’re by no means primary voters. But, the gains made by Santorum and Gingrich right when they won their primaries suggests many new fans are Liking candidate pages organically, at least in the sense that users are acting on their because of larger events. Certainly, the low fan counts that these candidates are showing overall on Facebook suggest that they are not doing much of anything to reach more voters.
Paul’s fanbase could also be discounted because he consistently does well in online matchups like these, even though he has trouble winning primaries. But maybe that will change in Florida? He had the biggest day of the month recently, at 9,500 new fans on the 24th. As Brittany Darwell notes over on Inside Facebook regarding the other primary winners, the fan counts seem to start climbing right before they do well with the vote counts.
Otherwise, Romney’s position is looking stronger than ever, similar to the latest polls.