Are Wisconsin’s Candidates “Like”-able?

Wired Wisconsin, a non-profit coalition of concerned individuals, businesses and organizations who are working to put Wisconsin on the cutting edge of technology, recently released a new report, 2012 Wisconsin Politics and the Web, which assesses how Wisconsin political candidates are using social media in their campaigns. While researching their report, Wired Wisconsin compiled a useful list of the active social media accounts and websites of all Wisconsin candidates.

Based on simple online searches of public information, the report focuses on 328 registered candidates in Wisconsin: 263 Assembly candidates, 36 Senate candidates, and 29 federal candidates. Wired Wisconsin examined whether the candidates are using websites, Facebook, and Twitter for their campaigns.

“The way voters connect with and learn about political candidates has changed significantly due to the continued use of social media, and many candidates in Wisconsin understand it is an integral part of campaigning,” says Thad Nation, executive director of Wired Wisconsin.

This report is an update to one issued in 2010, and a number of trends have been identified when comparing the data. Unlike the 2010 survey, State Senate and State Assembly candidates are nearly equal in their likelihood of having a website (72.22 and 70.34 percent, respectively). In our previous study, more than 80 percent of Senate candidates included a website as part of their campaign while only 65 percent of Assembly candidates maintained a site. This year, use of websites by Assembly candidates increased five percent; use by Senate candidates has decreased nearly 10 percent when compared to 2010.

Facebook usage has decreased significantly among candidates from 2010 (70.92 percent) to 2012 (58.23 percent). However, Twitter use has grown between the election cycles in Wisconsin, from one in four (27.09) to more than one in three candidates (35.06 percent). However, Twitter still comes in third as a means to reach voters, behind both Facebook and candidate websites.

“Social media is a rapidly evolving means of communication, and its use by Wisconsin candidates shows that candidates are preferring methods that offer immediate, direct contact with voters,” says Nation. “Social media also offers a way for voters to connect with candidates on a more individual basis, such as responding to a Tweet.”

According to the study, out of all candidates examined, 238 candidates (72.56 percent) have websites, 191 candidates (58.23 percent) have a Facebook page and 115 candidates (35.06 percent) have a Twitter account.

Among the candidates for Wisconsin State Assembly seats, 185 have websites (70.34 percent); 138 (52.47 percent) have a Facebook page and 84 (31.93 percent) maintain a Twitter account. Among the candidates for Wisconsin Senate seats, 26 have both websites and Facebook pages (72.22 percent) and 10 (27.77 percent) have Twitter accounts.

Those running for federal office are more likely than those running for state office to use social media. All seven US Senate candidates have a website and a Facebook presence, and only two are not using Twitter. For the US House candidates, all but two have a Facebook page and 16 of the 22 (72.72 percent) have a Twitter account.