With the Iowa caucuses and the first Democratic and Republican primaries just around the corner, I thought it was time we take a look at the American political landscape according to statistics on the Facebook user population. While not everyone in America is on Facebook (just over 8% of the adult population is, including almost 47% of Washington, DC), Facebook users are representative of a very important young, educated, and connected demographic.
Below are the findings of my research, which I conducted using data provided by Facebook (all national and state user statistics), the US Census Bureau (2006 population estimates), and CNN Politics (past election results). While most of my methods were back of the envelope, I think you’ll find the results pretty interesting. If you would like a CSV file containing the raw data mentioned below, just email me (justin at insidefacebook dot com) with “Political Stats” in the subject line, and introduce yourself. I always enjoy meeting more of my readers.
• 18.4 million Facebook members self-identify as American adults, which represents about 8.2% of the approximate 225 million adults in the United States. (Actual penetration is higher, but many members choose not to declare their age or country.)
• The variation in Facebook penetration from state to state is quite large. Over 15% of those of voting age in South Dakota are Facebook members (what else is there to do?), but only 3% of those in New Mexico are. In important primary and caucus states, it’s 8.9% (Iowa), 9.4% (New Hampshire), and 6.4% (South Carolina). Over a whopping 47% of adults in Washington, DC have Facebook accounts.
• Of American adults that declare their political views on Facebook, 40.9% call themselves liberal, 28.4% moderate, and 30.7% call themselves conservative. In the 2004 US Presidential Election, 50.7% of voters cast their ballot for George W. Bush. Thus, an especially large portion of the (probably older) conservative voter base is not on Facebook (or not declaring its convictions).
• Of the 10 states that had the greatest voter turnout in the 2004 Presidential election, four (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, and South Dakota) are amongst the 10 states where the greatest percentage of adults have Facebook accounts, and all except two (Oregon and Ohio) have Facebook penetration rates higher than the national average.
State by State Statistics
Facebook Voting-age Penetration
Full of young college graduates, Washington, DC leads all the states in Facebook penetration by a long shot. Most states with the highest penetration are liberal states in the northeast (Rhose Island, Massachusetts, Vermont), with the exception of a few conservative states in the midwest (South Dakota, Kansas). Ironically, California, home to Silicon Valley, is one of the least penetrated Facebook states.
Apparently, many in the less-densely-populated western half of the United States have yet to discover Facebook – Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, Wyoming, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon are all some of the least Facebook-penetrated states in America.
Facebook Penetration in Red and Blue States
When compared to how each state voted in the 2004 presidential election, states with the highest Facebook penetration skew democratic:
Conservatives on Facebook
The most conservative states on Facebook largely correspond to the states that voted most Republican in 2004 — largely, southern and midwestern states. Many states had much larger Republican turnouts in 2004 than declaring conservatives on Facebook, suggesting that many conservatives are not yet on Facebook. Only Washington, DC had a greater percentage of people declare conservative on Facebook than actually voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 election.
Liberals on Facebook
Likewise, the most liberal states on Facebook largely correspond to the states that voted most Democratic in 2004 — primarily northeastern and western states. However, unlike the conservative/Republican gap, the percentage of people in most states that declare themselves liberal largely equates to the percentage that voted Democratic in 2004, suggesting that the liberal crowd are early Facebook adopters.
Percentage of users who declare political views on Facebook
Not every Facebook user declares his/her political views. In fact, most don’t: the state where the most do is Alabama at under 45%. Interestingly, most states with the highest rates of users who declare their political views are very conservative. Either people in these states have the strongest political views, or it’s in these states that it’s most socially acceptable to declare one’s political views.
Correspondingly, most states with the lowest rates of users who declare their political views are the most liberal states on Facebook. The most liberal states in America are also the most politically private (or else apathetic) on Facebook.
Are there any more statistics you’d like to see?