Can We Predict the Election with Social Media?

An increase in the prevalence of technology in society has had its fair share of benefits and disadvantages alike. Focusing on social media, there are multiple platforms that serve as a medium for individuals to share their opinions, beliefs, values, and experiences. Additionally, a surge in social media usage has resulted in a large amount of data available at our fingertips. This data, shared on social media platforms, has the capacity to predict outcomes of events. Similarly, social data can be analyzed and used as a predictor for the upcoming presidential election.

Many individuals use social media as a tool to share experiences – their likes and dislikes, what they did last Thursday night, and what they ate for lunch. We put our lives on a silver platter for all to see. Social media platforms take detailed notes about who you are on your profile, and who/what you interact with online. Therefore, it would make sense for social media platforms to absorb and analyze this data and make predictions.

Considering that elections in the United States are entirely based on the opinions and beliefs of the people, social media should be an accurate indicator of the outcomes of an election. Here is some thoughts about this topic:

Mention Volume
The first predictive indicator is known as mention volume. If you are scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and see an overwhelming amount of discussion about a specific candidate, you can assume that their message is resonating with the population. Mention volume can be very important in elections because people may lean toward the candidate they feel like they know. A study done by Dublin City University indicated that tweet volume was the “single biggest predictive variable” in election results. Furthermore, mention volume can hint at which candidate is more popular with the public; another sign that they are more likely to win the election.

However, this prediction method does have its flaws. For example, a candidate with a large social media presence prior to the election may have somewhat of an advantage. If their profile already has thousands of followers, and their media presence is strong, the mention volume would be in their favor. As a result, other methods are used to verify these predictions.

Sentiment Analysis
Sentiment analysis is the process of determining whether a piece of writing is positive, negative, or neutral. It helps data analysts gauge public opinion, conduct market research, monitor responses, and understand the public through their experiences. This method can be used to analyze the effectiveness of a candidate’s social media outreach, engagement, and authenticity.

Follower Growth
Follower growth is a combination of mention volume and an increase in a candidate’s followers based on the effectiveness of their campaign. An upward trend displays that as the candidate increases their social media presence, their followers increased as well. Those who post often are more likely to see positive results from this predictor than those who don’t post as much.

All in all, predictors can have varying effects on foreseeing the outcome of elections. As the 2020 election nears, think about these indicators when you are scrolling through social media. Just like looking through a crystal ball, the future could be in the palm of your hands.