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Coakley vs Brown Online: Tracking the MA Senate Special Election

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, January 15 2010

Next Tuesday's special election in Massachusetts to fill the remaining three years of Ted Kennedy's term in the U.S. Senate is drawing a lot of attention, not only as the latest test of the national political winds, but also because if Republican Scott Brown defeats Democrat Martha Coakley, the Democrats will be down to 59 votes in the Senate (counting the two independents) and the health care bill may die on the vine. Both national parties are pouring money and troops into the state and the polls suggest it could be a close race. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to see what the online metrics might tell us about next Tuesday's vote. And on the face of it, Brown is surging.

On Facebook, Coakley has 10,454 fans at the moment, vs 49,086 for Brown. That's quite a lead for Brown and shows he's definitely caught the awareness of the right-roots.

On YouTube, both candidates have active pages. Brown has had about 340,000 views in all of his videos, and the top one, a response ad to an ad from Coakley attacking him, has gotten nearly 90,000 views in four days. Coakley has had just over 38,000 views of her videos, not nearly 1/10 Brown's total, though her most popular video, "Lockstep Republican," has gotten 20,000 in the three days since it's been up. (It's worth noting that her top viewed video has a pretty low average rating of 1.8 vs Brown's 4.5--a hint that of where online energy resides.)

On Twitter, Coakley has 2,795 followers vs Brown's 7,815. Here's how conversation about the two candidates stacks up on Trendistic for the last 30 days (#masen is the generic tag):

Blogpulse shows rising mentions of both candidates in the blogosphere, with references to Brown trending higher:

Here's Compete.com's tracking of monthly visits to the Coakley and Brown websites. It looks close, but keep in mind that Compete's data is monthly and we don't have the January data yet:

From these metrics, one could conclude that Coakley is running a much weaker campaign online, and that online activists are much more excited about Brown. But over on ActBlue, the Democratic fundraising hub, there are several efforts gathering small donations for Coakley, and nearly 10,000 people have donated more than $850,000 to her campaign through the site. I'd share Republican online fundraising numbers if there were any to share.

A key question about all these numbers is how much translates into interest and activity on the ground in-state. It's difficult to use the internet to get at that question, but here's one harbinger: organic search on Google from people in Massachusetts appears to favor Brown over Coakley. (See below.) Is it voters checking out the newcomer, or getting comfortable with their decision to support him? We'll know a lot more on Tuesday.

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