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Obama Far Ahead of Romney in Using Web and Social Media

The Obama campaign is posting almost four times as much content and is active on nearly twice as many platforms, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. For both, economy was issue No. 1, but neither candidate engages in much dialogue with voters.


  1. The PEJ study of the use of the web and digital platforms by the campaigns is based on an in-depth examination of the candidates' website homepages and blog sections, and content posted on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (areas that were either in their infancy or that candidates made no use of four years ago). The analysis looked at the direct messaging from the campaigns for 14 days during the summer, from June 4 to June 17, 2012 and included audits of the candidates' websites in June and again in late July.

  2. Obama Outpaces Romney in Social Media Campaign
  3. This chart provides an overview of how the campaigns performed differently on the web and major social media platforms:
  4. The greatest digital gap between the presidential candidates is on Twitter, as this graphic shows:
  5. Obama leading Romney is use of web, social media
    Obama leading Romney is use of web, social media
  6. The report caused some debate among Twitter users as to what they took away from the study.
  7. @cmatthewspolls post drew this response from Mike Sanfilippo @TheSansMan. The hashtags he mentioned are two popular ones for conservatives and progressives: Top Conservatives on Twitter (TCOT) and #p2
  8. While some of the digital platforms the campaigns are using may bear the moniker "social media," the National Journal highlighted one of the report's other major findings: that both campaigns rarely reply to, comment on or retweet something from a citizen on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
  9. As the report itself said:
  10. Neither campaign engaged heavily in the "social" aspect of the social media-But the Obama campaign filled its news blog with citizen content. Nearly all of the tweets, posts on Facebook and YouTube videos originated with someone inside the campaign or a well-known supporter. Rarely did either candidate reply to, comment on or retweet something from a citizen.
  11. Micah Sifry @MIsif, co-founder of Personal Democracy Forum and a sister site, techPresident, expanded on the subject in an interview with MarketplaceTech.
  12. Micah Sifry: There's very little retweeting, very little commenting, there's very little listening going on by these campaigns. In some ways, they're taking the old habits that come from broadcast media, where you talk at voters and you message at voters and not really using the two-way nature of online media Moe: Do you get the sense that that's intentional? Or do campaigns just not get it? Sifry: Oh no, I think this is intentional by now. I think they've decided that this is the most reliable path, that anything else where you open yourself up to dialogue is fraught with risk. They're very worried about making any unforced errors, anything the other side can pounce upon and turn into a flap.
  13. Another major point of discussion is what effect Romney's choice of running-mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, may have on this equation. Our survey was conducted before the selection of Ryan, who is often described as  web-savvy. The website Mashable raised the prospect that Ryan might help Romney overcome Obama's digital advantage.
  14. Paul Ryan Helping Romney Unseat Obama From Digital Throne
  15. Mashable's Alex Fitzpatrick @alexjamesfitz wrote:
  16. President Obama has long been considered the most digitally engaged candidate and president of all time — but is buzz over Paul Ryan helping the Mitt Romney campaign generate more online engagement than the Obama team? A Pew study released Wednesday found that “Barack Obama holds a distinct advantage over Mitt Romney in the way his campaign is using digital technology to communicate directly with voters” on the basis that the Obama campaign is posting four times the amount of content and is active on twice the number of platforms that the Romney team. However, the Pew study was based on data gathered throughout two weeks in early June — well before Saturday’s announcement of Paul Ryan as Romney’s vice presidential pick. That announcement immediately led to a spike in interest on Twitter, with nearly 4,000 tweets per minute about Ryan being sent during the event.
  17. Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, agreed in an interview with the CBC that this was a possibility.
  18. "When you look at [Paul Ryan's] numbers, he does have a greater digital presence, if you will, and so that may be an aspect that he may bring to the Romney campaign," Mitchell said.
  19. And then there was the big question: just how much impact on the overall campaign will result from Obama's advantage on the web in social media? Howard Kurtz, the Daily Beast's Washington Bureau Chief, posted this: