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Democrats on top in Iowa, New Hampshire Facebook buzz

In the early race for social media buzz in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democrats are out in front.

According to Facebook data released Friday, between May 13 and June 13, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each generated far more interactions (likes, posts, comments, and shares) from far more Facebook users in Iowa and New Hampshire than their Republican counterparts.

In Iowa, Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, generated 289,000 Facebook interactions from 66,000 unique people. Sanders, a Vermont senator and Clinton's strongest current rival, came in second, with 153,000 interactions from 30,000 people.

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The top Republican in Iowa in terms of Facebook buzz, was Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, with 98,000 interactions from 24,000 people. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came in second, with 62,000 interactions from 22,000 people. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz placed third, with 58,000 interactions from 17,000 people, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry placed fourth, with 56,000 interactions from 28,000 people.

In New Hampshire, the picture was similar. Clinton came out on top, with 145,000 interactions from 32,000 people, while Sanders came in second, with 123,000 interactions from 23,000 people. The top four Republicans, in order, were Paul, Cruz, Bush, and Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and conservative activist.

Facebook also released data on South Carolina showing Hillary Clinton on top in the first southern primary state, with 460,000 interactions from 104,000 people. Paul, a son of the South, came in second in South Carolina with 132,000 interactions from 34,000 people. Carson came in third with 120,000 interactions from 24,000 people. And Sanders rounded out the top four, with 116,000 interactions from 24,000 people.

Facebook has been regularly releasing data about the number of interactions each 2016 candidate has generated during the 24 hours surrounding their kickoff speech. Friday's numbers mark the first time the social network giant has offered a more detailed look at online political behavior in early voting states.

In terms of the Facebook buzz surrounding their launch speeches, the rest of the field was dwarfed by Clinton. When she launched her campaign in April, the former secretary of state generated 10.1 million interactions from 4.7 million unique people. Sanders' kickoff was the second most buzzy, among the Democrats, with 1.2 million interactions from 592,000 unique people.

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Among Republicans, Cruz's launch generated the most buzz, with 5.5 million interactions from 2.1 million people. Paul came in second, with 1.9 million interactions from 865,000 people. Carson came in third, with 1.5 million interactions from 847,000 people. And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came in fourth, with 1.3 million interactions from 695,000 people.

The numbers are, of course, an imperfect measure of voter excitement. There's no telling what percentage of each candidate's Facebook interactions were positive or negative, for example. And they don't necessarily translate into votes.

But they do provide at least one measure of the online enthusiasm surrounding each candidate, which could be meaningful in an age of internet organizing and small dollar donations.

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