Analyzing the Media’s Impact On the Iowa Caucus

Mitt Romney after his Iowa caucus win last night. Photo: AP

With the big GOP’s Iowa caucus behind us (results here in case you’re just climbing out from under that rock), New Hampshire directly ahead, and lots of lingering confusion over who’s really winning this thing, everyone is looking for a way to read the tea leaves with help from the media, digital or otherwise.

Going the traditional route, Mediaite found a correlation between the amount of television and radio coverage a candidate received throughout January 3 and where they placed in the caucus. However, the results don’t determine whether the media is following the voters’ lead or vice versa.

Going into the voting, it was Ron Paul who was riding a social media wave. The Washington Post‘s new @MentionMachine, a new app that tracks the election across Twitter and other media, has Ron Paul on top with more than 363,000 Twitter mentions and more than 5,300 media mentions for the week.

Our colleagues at AllFacebook and their Election Tracker 2012 put Mitt Romney on top in terms of Facebook fans with more than 1.1 million and Ron Paul second. Ron Paul is also tops in terms of viral reach. The Wall Street Journal says Rick Santorum had the highest share of voice between last night and this morning. The worse the candidate fared in the caucus, the more negative the social media comments. Nearly a third of comments about Romney were negative.

Anecdotally, it appears to us that social media is a place for sharing information and discussion about the candidates rather than a predictor of what’s going to happen in the election. Michele Bachmann wasn’t doing too poorly in the media coverage arena and was even a previous Iowa winner before she was trounced last night by all the other candidates (except the one that wasn’t competing in that state). However, it might be worth it to note that Bachmann coverage over the course of her campaign did include a lot of talk about the song choice during her visit with Jimmy Fallon, her Newsweek cover, and her constant gaffe-making. In case you missed the news conference this morning where she suspended her campaign, click here.

Separately but related, Barack Obama is winning the social media race. The @MentionMachine put him at number three for this week. Today there’s plenty of media mentions of the President’s new Instagram account. Last night, the President hosted a live video teleconference of the Democratic Iowa caucus. And today, his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is getting a lot of attention.

Even Press Secretary Jay Carney is getting in the on action with comments and tweets on the matter, saying on the @PressSec handle, “When Congress won’t act, POTUS will. We can’t wait.”

Now there’s word on the WSJ homepage that Obama plans to make more appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, so we can expect more chatter.