The Social Campaign?

How are social media affecting the 2016 campa... 04:47

Social media has already become a central player in the 2016 campaign, with candidates using it for their biggest announcements; for trading barbs; and ultimately - or so they hope - for winning over voters.

In our latest CBS News Battleground Tracker of the early primary states, many voters tell us they're using it, too, as they follow along. In Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, about four in ten describe using it either a lot, or sometimes, in each of the states; and either through Facebook, or Twitter, or both.

Of the top-tier contenders on both the Democratic and Republican sides, Sanders' supporters among likely Democratic caucus and primary goers are the most engaged in the campaign on social media, compared to the backers of Hillary Clinton, as well as of the two leading Republicans - Carson and Trump. About two thirds of Sanders' voters are using Facebook to follow the campaign, and about a quarter are using Twitter.

use-by-state.jpg

Voters using social media told us they take in more than they post or write; many more report reading news stories that get shared or tweeted, and fewer actually compose and start their own. All of which suggests the online conversation is being driven by a relatively smaller number of active voices, but consumed by many more.

In terms of actual vote preference among the heaviest social media users, it's close on the Democratic side but the edge goes to Sanders at the moment among those using Twitter "a lot," while Clinton has an edge among the (more sizable) group who are not using it -- though Sanders' backers do tend to be younger to begin with.

screen-shot-2015-10-27-at-11-11-38-am.png

Younger voters are generally more likely to be using social media to follow the election, particularly those under age 30. Democratic voters are a bit more likely than Republicans to be monitoring the campaign via social media. That, too, could partly be due to Democrats being younger.

age-and-twitter.jpg

A key item to watch as 2016 unfolds is whether social media can drive not just the vote, but the conversation: whether the messages and mentions and posts found there eventually spread beyond the online world and into broader public opinion? Do they echo it? Or both? We'll be sure to keep an eye on it throughout.

Full results and methodology are found at these links.

  • anthony-bio.png
    Anthony Salvanto On Twitter»

    Anthony Salvanto, Ph.D is CBS News Director of Elections and Surveys. He oversees all polling across the nation, states and congressional races, and heads the CBS News Decision Desk that estimates outcomes on Election Nights. He is the author of "Where Did You Get This Number: A Pollster's Guide to Making Sense of the World," from Simon & Schuster, and appears regularly across all CBS News platforms. His scholarly research and writings cover topics on polling methodology, voting behavior, and sampling techniques.