Social media and traditional polls predict very different outcomes for tomorrow's Super Tuesday Republican primaries, when 10 states and 413 delegates are up for grabs. A candidate will need 1,144 delegates to win the nomination at the party convention this summer in Tampa, Fla. The stakes are high.
Traditional news sources predict a tight race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, especially in Ohio. "A week out, polling showed Santorum pulling it off: he leads Romney by high single-digits or low double-digits, and his supporters say they’re more settled on their vote than Romney’s," Adam Sorensen, wrote in Swampland, Time magazine's political news site.
SocialMatica, an analytics firm that has set up a site to cover Super Tuesday with state-by-state social dashboards tells a very different story. Santorum ranks last in all but one state -- Ohio. But even there, he ranks a distant third behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Indeed, SocialMatica shows that half the races are close, but the front-runners are Romney and Paul. The dashboards say Romney will win seven of 10 states.
The San Francisco-based analytics firm's Super Tuesday dashboards show each candidate's standing in relation to one another. Each has been assigned an influence rating from 1 to 10 based on data from Facebook, blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, online news sites, discussion groups and forums. Influence ratings correspond to projections for next Tuesday's results, Wendy Toth, spokewoman for SocialMatica, told TechNewsDaily.
It's not just a matter of tallying mentions, Toth said. SocialMatica’s algorithm considers contexts, sentiment and the influence of the people posting.
In addition to calling winners, the dashboards reveal hot topics in each state. Toth says that the stories traditional media cover don't always match what people really care about.
"When Mitt Romney filed his taxes, that's all you heard about from the media, but Romney's income tax didn't appear on even one of our Super Tuesday state dashboards," she said.
SocialMatica shows top keywords that appear in online conversations around the upcoming elections. While it's no surprise that "primary" tops the list for many Super Tuesday states, other popular topics run the gamut from social issues to taxes: People from Ohio are concerned about euthanasia, while Virginians are worried about the environment.
Who will win and what matters most to voters today, according to SocialMatica dashboards:
1. Alaska: Romney -- primary, Georgia, Tea Party
2. Georgia: Gingrich -- primary, economy, education
3. Idaho: Romney -- health care, Virginia
4. Massachusetts: Romney -- primary, tax increase
5. North Dakota: Romney -- Virginia, terrorism, Ohio
6. Ohio: Romney -- euthanasia, primary
7. Oklahoma: Romney -- primary, Virginia, education
8. Tennessee: Romney -- Virginia, Ohio, budget
9. Vermont: Paul -- Ohio, budget, education
10. Virginia: Romney -- environment, tax increase
Super Tuesday dashboards are updated daily at SocialMatica’s site. Which method -- polls or social media -- will prevail? You’ll find out on Tuesday night, and maybe you’ll post your reaction on Facebook.