If voting was as easy as clicking Like on Facebook, the 2016 race would look a lot different. FiveThirtyEight ran the numbers and found that, come November, the race would come down to Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson.
The Facebook Primary, as FiveThirtyEight calls it, gives a glimpse at how social media does—and doesn’t—reflect the electorate.
While Sanders and Hillary Clinton are locked into a tight battle for the Democratic nomination, with the upcoming Nevada caucus appearing to be a toss-up, things are considerably different over on Facebook. According to Likes, Sanders should be considered the frontrunner, topping Clinton by a 3-to-1 margin. The primaries would be a 50-state sweep for the Sanders campaign based just off Likes.
On the Republican side, the election process would be only slightly less messy than it actually is. Donald Trump still leads over his primary rivals Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich, but he has some unexpected competition from Carson—the overall winner of the Facebook primary. The retired neurosurgeon leads the Facebook field with 26 percent of the vote, just topping Trump and Sanders at 23 percent a piece.
Carson shot onto the political scene in 2013 with his critique of President Obama’s signature legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which he called “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”
He’s remained a media darling for many conservatives, even as his poll numbers have shrunk. According to a November 2015 Gallup poll, Carson was by far the most-liked republican candidate, with a net-favorability of +21 percent.
Likability has never been Trump’s strong suit—in the same Gallup poll, he is found to be the least likable of the GOP ticket—but the candidate still maintains about as much support on Facebook as he does in the polls.
Fifty-eight percent of adults in the United States use Facebook, according to a Pew Research Center report. That tops the 54.9 percent of the electorate who turned out to vote in 2012 and is considerably better than the 2014 midterms, which turned out just 36.6 percent—the worst in 72 years.
Lest you believe the comparable voter turnout spells a sure victory for Bernie Sanders or Ben Carson, know that the average Facebook user skews younger, poorer, and more female than the country as a whole.