If voting were as easy as hitting the “like” button on Facebook – which it is not – Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump would be the Democratic and Republican favorites among Erie County voters in the April 19 New York presidential primaries.
Sanders’ Facebook page amassed 32 percent of the “likes” among Erie County Facebook users, compared to only 9 percent for his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, former secretary of state and New York senator Hillary Clinton.
Meantime among the Republican candidates, Trump garnered 28 percent of the Erie County Facebook likes, while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson had 17 percent.
Now what does this tell us?
Not much, according to fivethirtyeight.com, the numbers-crunching politics website that analyzed Facebook likes among presidential candidates, presumably in hot pursuit of clicks rather than deep political analysis.
Some 58 percent of American adults use Facebook, but Facebook users are disproportionately young, low-income and female, fivethirtyeight.com noted.
“Of course, Facebook isn’t claiming to be predictive – likes can still be a fun gauge of where candidates have support,” the website said. “If you want your voice to be heard in 2016, you should vote. But if you want to be included in the next update of this map, just go like a candidate’s page!”
Fivethirtyeight published an interactive map that tracks Facebook likes in every county in the nation, which can be accessed here. The New York map shows Trump as the overall leader in Facebook likes in every Western New York county other than Erie.
Sanders, a democratic socialist, leads in the counties that border his home state of Vermont, as well as in reliably liberal Tompkins County.
Looking at the fivethirtyeight map can indeed be fun, but any political pro would be wary of reading anything into the results, and not just for the reasons the website cited.
After all, Facebook users can “like” more than one presidential candidate on Facebook. In fact, many political reporters end up liking all of the major candidates, even if they can’t stand any of them.
What’s more, dead people still live on Facebook, and if someone is curating their pages, he or she could still vote there, just as in Chicago.
And then there’s the fact that sometimes people like a page and then forget about it, which may explain why 331,901 people on Facebook like former Florida governor and onetime GOP frontrunner Jeb Bush, and why 477,685 people like Bill Cosby.