June 10, 2007

So Who Is Ron Paul, Part 2 – The Internet Factor

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When I wrote Part 1, I did not anticipate the numerous comments it would elicit, and after seeing so many, I knew they had to come from somewhere I hadn’t expected. Eventually, Web Editor Chris Barnes solved the riddle: the answer was Google News (The Cornell Daily Sun is a member, in fact the first collegiate member, of the Associated Press). Both Part 1 and Part 1.5 spent some time in the top five results on Google News for the search phrase “Ron Paul,” driving his supporters over to the website. I found this ironic. Long before all these comments flooded our website, I decided to write in Part 2 about how Ron Paul had massive support on the Internet, while conversely, he had minuscule support in the real world among real voters. When the dust settled, and Part 1 had over 90 comments, these commenters had proved my point in a way. And now, I will lay out the full case for why no one should believe all the hype they see about Ron Paul on the Internet.

I will start with statistics for our own website. “So Who Is Ron Paul, Part 1,” despite being published during the summer when The Sun does not publish the print edition, beat the record for the article with the most comments during this school year. Sun columnist Laura Taylor held the old record, and any regular reader who has watched the reaction generated by Taylor’s columns knows that it would require a herculean effort to beat her record. Furthermore, comparing “So Who Is Ron Paul, Part 1” to another blog, “Democrats Debate, Obama Wins,” puts this in another perspective. The latter has more than three times as many views as the former, yet the former has more than nine times as many comments as the latter. One contributing factor to this anomaly may be the six websites that refer to this website thanks to Ron Paul’s supporters. Yes, I used my technological powers to catch them red-handed.

Those who do not believe me can instead believe ABC, who accused Ron Paul’s online supporters of viral marketing after he overwhelmingly won their online poll. I would believe ABC, considering that Ron Paul received 9,400 out of 11,000 votes when the second place candidate, Giuliani, got only 150 votes. In fact, Ron Paul seems to win every online poll, and by a massive margin each time. Because of this, one website, gopbloggers.com, took the next step and banned Ron Paul from future polls. In fact, when I saw my Ron Paul blogs appear on Google News, I also saw several articles with similar claims about Ron Paul. To top it all off, Ron Paul has more subscriptions on YouTube than Barack Obama. Paul more popular than Obama? That alone constitutes sufficient evidence that Ron Paul’s online supporters have been rigging just about every online measure of his popularity. And you do not have to be one of Obama’s many fans (which I certainly am not) to understand that.

In short, online polls are unscientific. They have few controls and let me say with confidence, people can easily manipulate them if they have the willpower. For more scientific polls with more controls, the outcome dramatically changes. To demonstrate this, I will utilize a case study of Facebook’s Election ’08 application. When I first downloaded this application and voted in their poll, Ron Paul led the pack with 27%, Obama trailed with 16%, and since Ron Paul runs as a Republican, Republicans had a hefty lead compared to Democrats in terms of total votes cast. It did not take long for Ron Paul’s supporters to find that poll. However, since one has to register with an email address for an account, Facebook’s registration process implicitly acts as a decent control on the poll. Most of Ron Paul’s supporters had already voted, so as time progressed, the application spread, and more people voted, Ron Paul slowly slipped away. Currently as I write this blog, Obama leads with 22%, Paul is second with 9%, and Giuliani is catching up with 8%. Democrats also have a larger share of the total votes, more accurately reflecting the demographics of the younger crowd who uses Facebook.

With that said, some scientific polls would shed some light on where Ron Paul really stands. The latest article on the Republican primary from Zobgy consistently mentions Giuliani, Romney, and McCain, but no other candidate’s name came up. I guess Ron Paul did not receive enough support. In fact, as I listened to the pre-debate commentary from the recent Republican debate on CNN, I heard analysts talk about how not just Ron Paul, but every second-tier Republican candidate has consistently registered in the low single digits in the polls. Reading the newest results from the Rasmussen Reports, I could find the big three Republicans again and now Fred Thompson, but I could not find a single thing on Ron Paul. By digging deeper, the latest data I found, without paying for premium content, was some favorable/unfavorable ratings from April 11-12. 14% view him favorably, 27% view him unfavorably, and 59% are not sure. Even among the people who actually know him, Ron Paul does not fare well. Although I could not find much from the Rasmussen Reports, I did find something from the Des Moines Register (think Iowa caucus) that placed Ron Paul in dead last. Yet as the word count escalates on this blog, I simply do not have room for the many more scientific polls I could cite, so the time has come to finish this blog with what any good writing should have, a strong concluding statement. Simply put, the research and the numbers speak for themselves.