Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Twitter Statistics from the Political Conventions...

In keeping with our series on Social Media and Presidential Politics: 2012, here are some quick stats for posterity's sake from the Republican and Democratic national conventions over the past two weeks...

  • Number of tweets per minute during their convention speech:
Barack Obama52,756
Michelle Obama28,003
Bill Clinton22,087
Joe Biden17,932
Mitt Romney14,289
Paul Ryan6,669
Gabrielle Giffords (reciting the Pledge of Allegiance)3,278
  • Additionally, the entire Democratic convention received over 10 million tweets, while the Republican convention received roughly 4 million. However, to put this in context, the MTV Music Video Awards received 15 million, or more than both conventions combined.
  • On the Twitter Political Index, a tool that monitors not only the number of tweets but the positive or negative sentiment behind them, Obama was leading Romney 52 - 9 when the conventions came to a close last Thursday.
  • The most mentioned topics on Facebook over the past two weeks, in order, were 1) President Obama's speech, 2) the Democratic National Convention, 3) Bill Clinton's speech, and 4) the Republican National Convention. Clint Eastwood's RNC speech came in at #7. Mitt Romney's speech came in at #10. 
So what does all of this mean?  Perhaps nothing.  All that these numbers really show is that Democratic-leaning users are more active on Twitter and Facebook than are Republican-leaning users.  But this is hardly a representative sample of the general population.

We'll have to see if a pattern emerges over several election cycles at different levels of government before we can claim that such statistics are predictive indicators of election outcomes.  Or of anything, for that matter.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Fantasy Political Games Online...

With the Democratic Convention this week, the country is now officially in full campaign mode leading up to the presidential election in November.  It also happens to be enthralled by the start of the professional football season, as demonstrated by millions of fans holding their fantasy football drafts.  Wouldn't you know it, but there's actually a way to quench one's desire for both simultaneously.

There's a rising phenomenon currently gaining momentum in cyberspace - fantasy politics.  Games have been developed that, like fantasy sports leagues, allow users to "draft" a team and then measure their team's performace based on the accomplishments of those politicians in real life.  One prominent example - Fantasy Congress - awards points for any of "your" representatives that co-sponsor legislation, have a stellar voting attendance record, show a willingness to cross party lines in close party votes, and awards gradually more points depending on how deeply a Congressman's bill proceeds through the legislative process.

Unfortunately, Fantasy Congress is still in beta-testing and won't be unleashed until the 113th Congress takes office in January, and is largely geared towards educators and students.  There was, however, a previous incarnation that existed from 2006-2009.

Nevertheless, the very idea must immediately get political scientists' and political junkies' minds abuzz with critiques of the scoring system.  For instance, quantity of legislative activity shouldn't necessarily be equated with quality.  Plus, the current scoring system imparts immediate value judgements on existing Congressmen.  As the site prominently tweets, "only 2 bills signed into law in 13 years of service for Paul Ryan....not good fantasy numbers".

Meanwhile, another fantasy political game is Nation States - and this one you can actually play right now.  Each player gets to create their own nation and make policy decisions that affect its political, economic, and military health.  As leader of your nation, you have daily issues to address ranging from how you want to allocate your budget to euthanasia to free speech.  You can also choose to opt-in to a Region, which is akin to an alliance of players, and vote in the World Assembly which lays out global rules for all Assembly members.

Admittedly, I recently created my own nation - TofuDog-nation - and was instantly addicted.  For the record, my current ratings based on policy decisions are:  "Good" on civil rights; "Very Strong" on my economy; and "Few" on political freedoms.

This is what's so fascinating about Nation States.  All users ever do is answer questions about what response they should take to specific scenarios.  But over time, that translates into an ideology that can be quite surprising. 

A few other notable fantasy political games include eRepublik and Miniconomy, and a few that SHOULD be developed include Fantasy Supreme Court, Fantasy Governors, and Fantasy Election.

But, really, I could continue...