Here’s the premise: in a tight race, to win over the independent voters that will decide an election, the Presidential candidates must address the top issues of concern for those voters.
So what are the most important campaign issues of the Presidential election in 2012? The answer depends on who you listen to.
For example, Terry Connelly, Dean Emeritus at Golden Gate University suggested in a piece on the Huffington Post that the tension between Israel and Iran was the most important issue. Voice of America, a multimedia broadcasting organization funded by the U.S. Government, says China is an important issue in this year’s campaign. The Wall Street Journal calls for more discussion of foreign policy.
Reviewing these stories for this post, I’m personally left a bit bewildered, and find James Carville’s now infamous statement echoing in my head, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
But what does social media – arguably the voice of the voters themselves – have to say? According to our Vocus monitoring, the number one issue is none of the above.
If the articles noted above are any indication, the traditional media may be a reflection of society, but it’s not a reflection of social media. According to our analysis of the chatter on social media; the most talked-about campaign issues are quite different. As the chart nearby indicates, foreign policy and Iran both rank quite low, while China doesn’t have enough mentions in the context of our searches to rank in the the top 20 .
An analysis of more than 1.7 million social media posts, using Vocus Social Media Monitoring software shows the top campaign issues discussed on social media to be:
Top Presidential campaign issues in social media
4. Health Care
An important part of social media monitoring is understanding not just what people are saying, but how they are saying it. What is the tone of these comments?
In the chart below the tone of each post is indicated on a scale from +1 to -1, where +1 is perfectly positive and -1 is perfectly negative. The issue of taxes for example, has the most mentions on social media, but the tone is neutral.
A review of the underlying data – the social posts – offers some indication as to why this is toned neutral.
“Asked the difference between his budget and Paul Ryan’s, Romney says. My tax rate is 28%. His is 25. That’s the difference,” wrote Mark Knoller, a long time White House correspondent for CBS, on Twitter. Knoller has 104,000 followers.
Meanwhile, former adult film star Jenna Jameson wrote to her 478,000 Twitter followers, “I could listen to @RepPaulRyan talk tax and budget policy all day everyday #newamerica #letsgo.” @RepPaulRyan didn’t respond to Jenna’s tweet. Don’t take that personally, Jenna: he hasn’t responded to anyone from that handle since August 5th. You should follow his new handle at @PaulRyanVP. Of course, his campaign could give the 220,000 followers of his old handle a little nudge by posting an announcement about his new handle on his old profile, directing followers to the new one.
Of the top five issues on social media, all are toned neutral, while only health care is toned decisively positive. My interpretation of the data is that the battle for independent voters, at least on social media, will rest on those issues that are neutral. This is because as we see in the anecdotes above, there are strong voices on both sides, though whether or not Jenna Jameson has more influence than Mark Knoller is debatable.
In a closely fought race, as this one surely is, in my professional PR opinion, both campaigns should be fine tuning their messages and differing viewpoints on these issues and be hammering away.
Of course there’s a contrary view to that advice: Noah Kerner and Gene Pressman wrote in their book, Chasing Cool, businesses that evolve into leaders don’t chase trends, instead they make their own. Or, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stated yesterday, “Real leaders don’t follow polls. Real leaders change polls.”
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