As America goes to vote today, the polls put the race between Obama and Romney as... pretty darn close.
Which I found surprising, as over the past few months, my Facebook news feed has been flooded with horrifying stories and cartoons lampooning Romney, while most of the stuff about Obama seems to be that he is a saint.
In essence, the message I have been fed is that if you are a lying, conniving, white, male billionaire, then vote Romney, but if you have ovaries, any kind of skin colouring, or the slightest hint of compassion for your fellow human, then you have to vote Obama.
I refuse to believe half of all Americans are rich, selfish white men, so how come the candidates are neck and neck?
I thought I’d do some research of my own on Facebook.
At first glance it’s pretty straightforward – Romney has 12 million likes but Obama has nearly 32 million – over 2½ times as many.
However, we have to take into consideration Obama has been in the spotlight for longer than Romney, this being his 2nd time running for president - which will skew the figures. Evidence for this is one of my friends who Facebook tells me likes Obama died 3 years ago, but his like remains.
Figuring my 485 still-alive-as-far-as-I-know friends represented a reasonable sample, I looked to see who had liked the pages of the two contenders. This was the result.
Friends who have liked Romney’s Facebook Page: 5
Friends who have liked Obama’s Facebook Page: 38
So, with more than 7 times as many people liking Obama than Romney, even allowing for Romney’s shorter Facebook exposure time, it still didn’t make sense of the media polls.
But then looking in more detail at my lists, I realised 22 of the Obama supporters and 1 of the Romney supporters didn’t live in America, so wouldn’t be able to vote anyway. A quick extrapolation indicates Obama is even more popular outside the US than within.
However, this still leaves 16 to 4 in favour of Obama inside America, which is more than enough to thoroughly trounce Romney.
So is it that the media is biased towards the right, or is it that my Facebook friends are biased to the left?
Well given that I’m apparently a political extremist (see my post, Political Compass), it wouldn’t be surprising if more of my friends leaned politically to the left than the right, and thus are likely to be less reflective of the population at large.
Of course another way of interpreting my findings is 442 (485 minus 38 minus 5) of my friends really can't find the enthusiasm to get worked up about it either way.