At the risk of annoying supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who believe — and argue fervently — that the mainstream news media don't pay attention to their candidate, it must be noted that Twitter and Facebook don't, either.
Accusations that news organizations are ignoring Paul's presidential campaign are an organizing principle of his supporters, who take to Facebook and Twitter to complain that the only reason Paul isn't leading is a "media blackout."
Every day, hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of comments like this appear:
In fact, Paul's rally was covered by the major St. Louis media (here, here and here, for example), but never mind that — perception matters in politics. And the perception in some quarters is that the media are actively trying to sink Paul's campaign.
That sentiment makes up about 10 percent of posts about Paul this year, according to msnbc.com's computer-assisted analysis of a sample of 9 million Twitter and Facebook posts that have mentioned one of the four major Republican candidates through Friday.
(The analysis uses a tool called ForSight, a data platform developed by Crimson Hexagon Inc., which is used by many media and research organizations to gauge public opinion in new media, among them the Pew Research Center and ESPN. The results aren't a scientific reflection of national opinion. Instead, they're a broad look at what is being said by Americans who follow politics and are active on Facebook, Twitter or both.)
Since the beginning of the year, Paul and his campaign have been mentioned about 1.1 million times on Twitter or Facebook:
Crimson Hexagon Inc.
Click to enlarge
The top line quantifies total mentions of Ron Paul on Twitter and Facebook since Jan. 1. The shaded blue are counts those that specifically take a position on him.
Here's the problem: Over the same time, more than 3.7 million posts have mentioned former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney:
More than 2.2 million have mentioned former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia:
And more than 1.9 million have mentioned former Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania:
Here's an especially telling comparison, charting posts that state an actual opinion about one of the four candidates since Jan. 1. Paul is the yellow line at the bottom, often clocking in at fewer than 5,000 opinions a day:
However much his partisans may complain, it's not just the media that are ignoring Ron Paul.
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