By a tiny percentage, more people on social media are saying nice things about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont than his Republican rival Bob Stefanowski, according to a new tracker of online discussions.
Net sentiment posted Wednesday for Lamont was 41 percent. For Stefanowski it was 40 percent.
But Stefanowski had Lamont beat when it came to “favorability,” which also took into account how many times his name was mentioned on social media, as well as in other areas measured by the tracker.
Those are some of the findings of the Political Atlas, a political forecasting tool created by a partnership between the University of Virginia Center for Politics and Ipsos Public Affairs, an opinion research firm.
It’s the first time political prognosticators have made a systemic study of social media to try to determine public sentiment.
The Political Atlas’ creators say their goal is to “provide multiple independent data sources allowing everyone to reach their own conclusions on what will happen in the 2018 midterm elections.”
The atlas monitors Twitter, Facebook YouTube, Reddit, and other social media for key words, using algorithms to determine which posts are critical and which are favorable. Ratings are updated daily.
Chris Jackson, vice president of public policy at Ipsos, said the idea to monitor social media for public sentiment about politics was born from the largely unreported use of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets to promote candidates in the 2016 presidential election, especially Donald Trump.
Ipsos is now trying to incorporate hard-earned lessons from the presidential election, when most pollsters failed to accurately determine the strength of the support for Trump.
“We are saying ‘why didn’t we pay attention to the energy Donald Trump brought to social media?’ ” Jackson said.
Metrics for social media comments about Connecticut’s candidates for governor, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are based only on Connecticut-based accounts, to keep from over-inflating any particular sentiment that may not represent locally-held opinions.
Ipsos also conducts weekly polling of thousands of Americans and uses a modeling method to determine whether — and how far — race is leaning toward a Republican or Democratic candidate.
Its surveys show the Connecticut gubernatorial race is a dead heat. Ipsos rated the U.S. Senate race “lean Democratic” and the races for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd congressional districts “likely Democratic.” The races for the 4th and 5th congressional seats in the western part of the state were rated “lean Democratic.”
The poll surveys very few people in Connecticut — only about 100 a day — and depends on other indicators besides public responses to determine its ratings. Those include using national data to make estimates for smaller geographic areas, based on that population.
The Political Atlas also includes UVA’s “Crystal Ball” rankings, which are political scientist Larry Sabato’s analyses of all gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and U.S. House races. To determine how a race is leaning, Sabato uses a number of indicators, including polling, candidate quality, modeling, and reporting.
Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” rankings determined that the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Sen. Chris Murphy and Republican rival Matthew Corey, and all U.S. House races in Connecticut, except the 5th District race, are “safe Democratic.” Sabato rated the 5th District race, between Democrat Jahana Hayes and Republican Matthew Corey “likely Democratic.” While he gave Democrats in those races more of an edge, he agreed with Ipsos that the governor’s race is a “toss up.”
“The Political Atlas will give everyone the ability to triangulate different data sources and reach their own conclusion,” Sabato said.
On Wednesday, Stefanowski’s “favorability” was 52 percent and Lamont’s was 48 percent.
More people were also mentioning Stefanowski more in online conversations than Lamont. Stefanowski had a “velocity” rating of 178, meaning that an average of 178 social media posts every hour mentioned the Republican gubernatorial candidate, while Lamont’s velocity rating was 160.
Stefanowski was also brought up by more “influencers,” or people with large followings on social media like celebrities, politicians and journalists.
Thirty-five percent of post by “influencers” mentioned Stefanowski, while 27 percent mentioned Lamont.
The Political Atlas also searched social media to measure online interest in issues in each state.
In Connecticut, Trump was the most discussed on social media, with 42 percent of the posts mentioning the president. Health care came in second with 13 percent, and the economy third with 10 percent.
Connecticut’s interest in Trump was not unique, Jackson said.
“Everybody is talking about President Trump,” he said. “Everybody.”
According to the Political Atlas, Trump’s approval rating in Connecticut was 40 percent, compared to 37 percent in Massachusetts and 45 percent in New Hampshire.
The bipartisan fight over the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was mentioned by 8 percent of those in Connecticut having online discussions. Other topics of interest were foreign policy (6 percent,) and immigration and taxes (both 5 percent.)