Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cambridge Analytica was Behind the Results I Found on Facebook and the 2016 Election

Image from Mother Jones article on Cambridge Analytica
The Cambridge Analytica (CA) story may have fallen on the back burner because of the March for Our Lives (rightly) and Stormy Daniels (wrongly).  Mother Jones magazine published a detailed chronology of how it became involved in the 2016 election.  First they were partnered with Ted Cruz's campaign.  They claimed credit for his winning Iowa and finishing second overall in the delegate count.  Mother Jones reports that CA used the data in 2015 for Cruz's campaign to make psychographic profiles of users from the data from 50 million Facebook profiles..  Because Steve Bannon was on Cambridge Analytica's board, it was brought on to the Trump campaign.

At the same time in 2015 I was keeping track of the Facebook followings of the Presidentical candidates.  Below is a table I compiled on May 23, 2015 from each candidate's Facebook page such as the number of followers, the the most common city on their page from their followers, and the most popular age group on his page.  Donald Trump hadn't announced his campaign yet.  Lincoln Chafee had no Facebook page.

Four of the GOP candidates pages were receiving traffic from Houston, TX while three of the Democrats were receiving it from New York City.  For three of the four GOP Houston  candidates, their traffic was coming from users 65 and older.  About this time Cambridge Analytica was working for Cruz's campaign.  When I looked at the Facebook pages of pundits in January 2015, Houston was the most popular city of conservative pundits (10 out of 17) I looked at.

Party
candidate
Followers as a Pres Candidate
Most Popular City Since Becoming Candidate
Most Popular Age Group as Candidate
Dem
Hillary Clinton
839,186
New York, NY
25-34
Bernie Sanders
477,839
New York, NY
55+
Martin O'Malley
65,714
Baltimore, MD
25-34
Lincoln Chafee
.
.
Joe Biden
823,846
New York, NY
25-34
Jim Webb
21,489
Washington, DC
19-24
GOP
Ted Cruz
1,244,398
Houston, TX
65+
Mike Huckabee
1,734,080
Perth, Australia
65+
Rick Santorum
259,186
Pittsburgh, PA
45-64
Ben Carson
1,413,206
Houston, TX
25-35 and 
45-54
Rand Paul
1,922,875
Houston, TX
65+
Lindsey Graham
107,881
Columbia, SC
65+
Jeb Bush
176,284
Miami, FL
65+
Scott Walker
278,201
Milwaukee, WI
45-54 and 65+
Marco Rubio
861,005
Miami, FL
65+
Chris Christie
104,166
New York, NY
35-54
Rick Perry
1,174,115
Houston, TX
65+
Bobby Jindal
239,530
Baton Rouge, LA
35-54
Carly Fiorina
55,400
Los Angeles, CA
45-54
John Kasich
107,224
Columbus, OH
45-64

In August of that year,  the numbers for the candidates had changed with a large gain for Trump in both support and Facebook following.  About this time Facebook stopped providing information on the cities and age groups where their pages were most popular.  They still provided data on the number of followers who engaged with their page.  

Candidate
Party
Followers
June
Gain in
Followers,
June
# engaged
June
Engage
% June
Followers
Aug
Gain 
Aug
# Engaged
Aug
%
Engage
Aug
Engage
change
Aug-Jun
Real 
Clear
Politics
Avg
Hillary Clinton
D
871449
32263
164721
0.19
1209179
337730
327399
0.27
0.08
49.3
Bernie Sanders
D
530262
52423
136772
0.26
1225552
695290
355980
0.29
0.03
25
Martin O'Malley
D
70478
4764
15535
0.22
76953
6475
3675
0.05
-0.17
1.7
Lincoln Chafee
D
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Joe Biden
D
831968
8122
8998
0.01
841644
9676
1596
0
-0.01
12
Jim Webb
D
21745
256
2366
0.11
30544
8799
9956
0.33
0.22
1.3

Donald Trump
R
1792016
113658
53880
0.03
3282608
1490592
743935
0.23
0.2
22
Ted Cruz
R
1249160
4762
134836
0.11
1385876
136716
242349
0.17
0.06
7.3
Mike Huckabee
R
1743599
9519
231343
0.13
1827423
83824
415975
0.23
0.1
4.3
Rick Santorum
R
261168
1982
17289
0.07
264796
3628
11625
0.04
-0.03
1
Ben Carson
R
1487589
74383
168658
0.11
2418003
930414
869374
0.36
0.25
9.7
Rand Paul
R
2001304
78429
281904
0.14
2060430
59126
122158
0.06
-0.08
4.3
Lindsey Graham
R
111795
3914
10982
0.1
130110
18315
5621
0.04
-0.06
0.3
Jeb Bush
R
178172
1888
4681
0.03
250731
72559
30841
0.12
0.09
10.7
Scott Walker
R
283102
4901
24483
0.09
359444
76342
40554
0.11
0.02
7.7
Marco Rubio
R
874898
13893
83916
0.1
978401
103503
54927
0.06
-0.04
7.3
Chris Christie
R
104785
619
3014
0.03
118868
14083
8055
0.07
0.04
3.3
Rick Perry
R
1183094
8979
40992
0.03
1208938
25844
17278
0.01
-0.02
1.3
Bobby Jindal
R
243034
3504
5174
0.02
277777
34743
23878
0.09
0.07
0.7
Carly Fiorina
R
60165
4765
12713
0.21
281637
221472
86799
0.31
0.1
6.3
John Kasich
R
107703
479
7320
0.07
138213
30510
17159
0.12
0.05
0.3
George Pataki
R
15391
4512
29
18330
2939
6892
0.38
-28.62
0.1
The story about Cambridge Analytica and what I found looking at the candidate's campaign pages appear to correspond.  I was looking at publicly available data on Facebook usage and polling from Real Clear Politics.  Obviously I did not have access to the same data as Cambridge Analytica but I was able to glean that something was going on.  

Cambridge Analytica was not able to help Cruz overtake Trump in the primaries.  It is debatable how much assistance they were to Trump in the general election but the fact that Trump won the electoral college vote (while losing the popular vote by 3 million) is all the validation they need.  They also assisted in winning the Brexit vote in 2016 for which they are also under investigation.  Below is a communications professor suing CA for the data they may have on him.

**Update**

The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wiley was interviewed on Amanpour on PBS about the what CA was up to.  It's a gripping interview which is in the second half of the show.  You'll have to fast forward to get to it.


**Related Posts**

Houston, TX: A Hotbed of Conservative Facebook Activity?




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