Election 2020

This Underdog Would Win the Facebook Election

Republican presidential candidates take the stage during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado on Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

And the winner is…

If the presidential election were decided by “likes” on Facebook, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson would trounce all contenders, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders would beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a 3-to-1 margin.

A new tool launched by the polling and election analysis site FiveThirtyEight shows which candidates’ official Facebook pages get the most “likes” in which areas of the country. According to their data, Carson wins big nationally with 26 percent of the “like vote,” closely followed by Sanders and real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who both claim 23 percent of this “electorate.”

FiveThirtyEight cautions against reading too much into this wonderful tool, however.

According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of American adults use Facebook. But this share is not a representative sample of the country — Facebook users are disproportionately young (although not as young as users of other social media networks), low-income and female. And the sample may be even more skewed because only some people on Facebook have liked a presidential candidate’s page and because those pages haven’t existed for the same amount of time. As “The Literary Digest” taught us in 1936, large but biased samples aren’t so effective.

In the critical upcoming state of South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary this coming Saturday, February 20, Carson leads big in the GOP Facebook field. Carson claims an impressive 35 percent of “likes,” while Trump has 25 percent, Texas Senator Ted Cruz 13 percent, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio 10 percent. If the results on Saturday look like this, Carson will get a huge wind in his sails.

Unfortunately for the neurosurgeon, this is an extremely unlikely result, as Carson stands in sixth place with 4.5 percent in the South Carolina RealClearPolitics polling average.

South Carolina Facebook Primary