Globe Off Base on Boston Mayoral Race Facebook Sites

(A hilarious example of the power of the progressive blosophere quickly to pulp would-be wingnut/Drudge Report disinformation -- and how much competition the Internet has created for journalists, when anyone with a connected computer and some skill can perform immediate in-depth research. John sets the record straight in the comments. - promoted by Bob)

Anybody know the difference between a “political” Facebook page and a “personal” one? Apparently the Globe, in today’s (7/19) piece on the Boston mayor’s race, shows it does not.  The premise of the article is that candidates Flaherty and Yoon are using new technologies to motivate new voters in this year’s race.  However, the Globe runs this line:

The mayor – whose past campaign websites were of the static, storefront variety – now has 2,400 supporters on Facebook, one-third more than Yoon, but 600 fewer than Flaherty.

But let’s look at the record:

Councilor Flaherty has done a good job attracting “friends” to his personal site, which totals about 3,000 members, as it says above. But it is NOT his campaign site.  It’s been up for a while and contains a number of people who may have been “friended” before the race, and are either supporting other candidates now or are not involved. (for example, a number of the “One in Three” sites originated by the Menino Administration to reach young people in Boston have been “friended”).

If one compares apples to apples rather than to oranges, one gets these numbers as of 8:30 p.m., 7/19/09 for their “official” campaign pages

Tom Menino – 2,399

Michael Flaherty -1,187

Sam Yoon – 781 (Yoon has about 1,800 friends on his “personal” page, which is where, again, the Globe makes an error in comparison. It is not an active campaign site in terms of news and information, which the site with 781 members is)

In my opinion (granted as a long time Menino supporter), commitment to be a “friend” on the political campaign page of a candidate is a far more indicative commitment of support, rather than a general “friending”.

Caveat A – all the candidates have adjunct pages, Dorchester for X; Cape Verdeans for Y, and there is some overlap naturally, but again, focusing on the core pages and the content provided within gives you a better sense of who is best utilizing this social media function, and right now, it’s the incumbent. (there are also a few “unofficial” candidate support pages by people who’ve taken their own initiative, some of which, for example, predated the Menino announcement and later linked to the official page that rolled out about 3 months ago.)

Caveat B – the Globe may have interpreted the Flaherty “friend” page as a “political” page due to the “Good/Better” symbol that was recently placed on the site (I like the Classic Coke/New Coke parody of it myself, lol).

Thanks for reading


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29 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Classic Coke/New Coke parody .

    I like the Classic Coke/New Coke parody of it myself, lol).

    Perfect. What ever happened to the new coke anyway?  

    • So-called $quot;Classic Coke$quot;

      Is different from what we grew up with. They switched the recipe. Tin hatters think this was a conspiracy. More likely, they really thought New Coke would fly.

      I think New Coke is still available, but not widely distributed.

  2. It's funny when the debate over $quot;who's winning$quot;

    seems almost as intense as the one about "who should win". It's a weird part of human nature that one could be influenced to change one's vote by a perception of who will eventually win. In other words, who cares who has more friends? We should just be trying to figure out who would do the best job as mayor.

    • No question, my friend

      But this is a part of the package. If someone had said six months ago that Mayor Menino would have more contacts on Facebook and a more comprehensive presentation on the site than his opponents, people would have scoffed.  If you had told me six months ago that his campaign would have over 60 young people regularly serving as interns for the campaign, I would have scoffed, based on my knowledge of his previous campaigns.  Menino's opponents like to portray him as old and outdated, but it seems in this area, as well as others (environmental issues for example), he has stolen a march on them.  I've been particularly impressed that so much young people of color, who've grown up in the city, have "friended" the campaign and gotten involved.

      As always, just my opinion, and of course, there are many issues and factors that go into the campaign.  The Globe chose this one, and if they do, they should do it right, IMO.

  3. howard

    as a seasoned hand, can u just fast forward and give us the final tally?

    My guess, barring any medical issues....

    Menino = 56%

    Flaherty = 27%

    Yoon = 14%

    • Tighter

      I look for a late surge toward Yoon that falls short.

    • Real $quot;political$quot; response ...

      It depends - :)

      We're about two months from the preliminary, who knows what actions we couldn't even contemplate will occur. but a few thoughts:

      Always consider the weather and the ability of the organizations to turn out voters.

      Voter registration winds up early in September, does that mean that really "new" voters won't participate until November?

      Will the newspapers take a position in the preliminary?

      here's a few numbers to think about from previous  contested preliminaries:

      1979 - Kevin White gets 42% going for a fourth term, Joe Timilty, 29% and Mel King and David Finnegan 15% apiece.

      1983 - Ray Flynn and Mel King edge out Finnegan with all 3 around 30%.

      1993 - I believe that Menino came in about 10 points ahead of Jim Brett, in the low 30's, with Rosaria Salerno and Bob Rufo close behind.

      Granted, these numbers are 16 years old, but give you a sense of how hard it is to break 50% in a multicandidate prelim, even for Kevin White, who was a three term incumbent at that point.

      So, we shall see ...

  4. Now Menino has to get rolling on his yardsign count

    Totally unscientific, of course, but it seems to me that Menino is still behind in yard signs in the neighborhoods of Roslindale, West Roxbury and Hyde Park in which I have been doing my weekend jogs. I presume this is more from a difference in campaign priorities than a lack of supporters, but I think it does make an impression on voters. Lack of yard signs gives the impression that there is a lack of supporters, especially when an opponent's signs are seen everywhere.

    Clearly Yoon and McCrea have to really step it up in this area even more than Menino in those neighborhoods. Yoon's base is probably in Dorchester, where he lives, but he really needs to make sure that every supporter he has in the Flaherty or Menino neighborhoods gets a sign in their yard ASAP. Same for McCrea, but he needs to first get a lot more supporters, since he appears to have very few.

    • I saw a $quot;tweet$quot; today about many signs going up in the North End

      which makes sense given the upcoming festivals there.  I also think incumbents generally do theirs later, as they have more name recognition to begin with.

      having said that, I can recall any number of successful progressive campaigns from my Brighton days getting swamped in terms of signs, as absentee owners generally put up signs for the more conservative local candidates. certainly proving the assertion that "Signs Don't Vote". There are also the locations that always have multiple signs -- the house on the Jamaicaway, the ledge near the Faulkner Hospital, let a thousand idea bloom, I guess.


      • Multi-sign houses

        I always wondered about why those people on the Jamaicaway like to put up signs for opposing candidates. Actually, the location by the Faulkner is the only place I have seen a McCrea sign so far.

        • someone explained it to me once

          but dont remember, usually there are more signs up at the "ledge" by the Faulkner, but we have so many new candidates, maybe they don't know about it .... be fun to start seeing some at large Council signs around ...


        • Peace at the home

          Different people/ different candidates.

          sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
          • Perhaps, but I am not sure

            Both the sites are famous for having signs for multiple candidates. The house across from the pond has sometimes had signs for three or four different candidates.

  5. Au contraire

    Menino, as a self-identified politician, has "Supporters" which just require a single click by the person who wants to sign up. These people share little or no information back to the campaign through Facebook. Flaherty, by contrast, with his "Friends" (a) has to confirm each one, which suggests a far greater level of involvement with the process on a continuing basis, and (b) can access much more information about them if he chooses. This suggests that Menino's support, to play devil's advocate, is superficial, in a Facebook sense, while Flaherty's supporters are the substantive ones.

    Or argue the other way, and say that Menino shows he understands Facebook better because he has set up a proper "Politician page."

    Or say that this just reaffirms how out of touch the Mayor is: he is so stiff and formal and dated he can't even stoop to using his personal Facebook page like a normal person, unlike regular guys Flaherty and Yoon.

    All of which just shows that this whole discussion, with respect, strikes me as silly.

    The interesting point is that candidates for Mayor of Boston are using Facebook. The question is: will it have an impact.

    • $quot;Has to confirm each one$quot;

      Weirdly enough, I think Flaherty actually sent me a friend request, which I, (admittedly a little bit honored), promptly confirmed. Of course, it's probably one of hid staffers who did it...but still, an interesting touch. I'm leaning toward McCrea regardless.

  6. Umm, Howard, when did they put the talking points together for you on this?

    And more to the point, who cares?

    Anyone who decides who to vote for based on whether that person has 2,400 supporters or 1,400 friends on Facebook is obviously a dope.

    At this point, it looks like Mayor Menino could shoot a puppy on live TV and still be re-elected.  He's got a 2 to 1 advantage in money (or more) and a 3 to 1 advantage in volunteers, and unbelievable name recognition and very good poll numbers.

    So, Howard, why won't he commit to any of proposed forums or  debates?  

    • Menino shot a puppy?!

      The poor little thing. How heartless. Now why would he do that. And more to the point, where did he get the gun?

    • Pretty gratuitous remark, no?

      This boy likes to think for himself, having supported Deval Patrick for Gov and Sonia Chang Diaz for State Senate, not exactly the same list of endorsements His Honor has had.  Again, it's been the other candidates who've talked about new ways of reaching voters, etc only to find that the four term incumbent is smoking them when it comes to said "new media", not only quantitatively in terms of "friends", but qualitatively in terms of substance, IMO.

      He's committed to debating and I'm sure we'll see a schedule soon. Hope so, so those obsessing about it will have to find something else to talk about.  

      • Another seperation worth noting

        C'mon Howard, at a certain point this is just too cute by half. I have to admit I got a good chuckle out of your implication that tom "I hate voicemail and am not really too fond of the email either" menino is all of the sudden some new media savant, running laps around the other candidates.

        At best it can be said that he has a diligent (well-paid), hardworking (well-paid), and resourced, I mean resourceful staff handling his web activity. You are also leaving out the fact that many people are affiliated with other city programs with a web presence, like the previously mentioned Onein3, and probably just link to tom via that connection. It is convenient being in charge that way, isn't it?

        I would personally love to see how many of tom's "friends" there are when you subtract city employees, relatives of city employees, and people who are on particular city boards, commissions, etc. Do I think that there will still be a good number, probably. Do I think the current number takes a BIG dip, definitely.

        Tom is lucky to have someone on the team who will do their best to try to turn the inherent advantage of incumbency into a demonstration of all his hard work on the web. I agree with you though, and am looking forward to getting the debates scheduled so we can talk about something different, like how tom is going to defend some REALLY bad decisions (cough, Banner bailout) and a system that on a good day kind of works . . . if you know the right people.

        P.S. When you supported Deval and Sonia was it less like tom, i.e. before the primary or more like him, you know, once all of your other options had lost or put on the fast track to court? Just curious :)

        • $quot;City employees$quot;

          Minus, presumably, a lot of firefighters.

        • HowardJP

          I give HowardJP huge credit. He was with Deval a full year before the election. And he was with Sonia both times she ran, making him not popular in some circles.

          While I'm not sure I'm impressed at the WBUR piece yesterday showing Menino running the city from his SUV, I can't argue with the point being made by Howard here. When we think new candidates and new blood, we think of young, fresh, internet-savvy ideas and faces. We think of Obama versus Hillary, where Obama just dominates the web and the young vote. Deval versus Reilly, same idea. So when a 16 year incumbent actually manages to out-organize his opponents on facebook, it's at least worth a second look.

          Of course it would be helpful if we could eliminate all of Menino's facebook friends who are either city employees or work for nonprofits or businesses that have a stake in their relationships with him, and see where the numbers end up then. Even so, Howard's point about dozens of young people volunteering is an interesting one as well. You don't think about an entrenched incumbent exciting young volunteers as the norm.

          Here's my guess.

          Final prelim tally: Menino - 48 Flaherty - 31 Yoon - 18 McCrea - 2

          Final General tally: Menino - 58 Flaherty - 42

          • Who knows Menino better?

            Than all the current and former employees that have worked with him in or outside of city hall? And who have a personal or professional stake in making this a more livable city? And who are proud to live here?


            • One thing about Menino, maybe neither here nor there:

              I worked in Assessing, on the 3rd floor, for about five years and never ran into Menino inside City Hall. I don't think he ever set foot inside our office. It wasn't his style to wander the building, checking up on various departments, and I think he must have had a private elevator or something (though I could be wrong). So although certain city employees undoubtedly know him very well, the vast majority probably know him no better than any of the other 400,000 people who have shaken his hand once or twice. This perceived aloofness is probably a common characteristic associated with CEO's of very large organizations, and this comment is not meant as a criticism so much as a refutation of the idea that merely "working for the city" necessarily engendered either familiarity with, or political loyalty to, the mayor.

    • Not really sure I agree with you

      Totally unscientific, but looking at who I know in Boston and just meeting random people who are friends of friends.... there's a lot of excitement for this race. I think that once the preliminary is over and the race boils down to two people, then that second person has a shot of taking down Menino. It's an uphill battle for sure, but you can tell how seriously Menino is taking this race. That, to me, is a very strong indication of how close this race could be.  

    • Nobody ......

      has to write Howard's talking points.  

  7. I don't believe this is very meaningful

    There are a lot of ways for campaigns to connect with supporters and volunteers than through Facebook, so counts of various types of Facebook connections taken by themselves does not mean very much. I think the only point here is that Menino's campaign has not ceded the use of new technology to the campaigns of the younger generation.

    • Exactly so

      But a funny note today about the Globe's piece re: Menino and the Teachers Union.  The article has pictures alongside it of Menino and supposedly Richard Stutman of the BTU, but "Stutman" is actually Mike Contompasis, long time Latin School Headmaster, Deputy Superintendent and Acting Superintendent for the schools, who now holds the Intergovernmental Relations post at City Hall (and a very prestigious post it is!)

      I'm sure both will get a good laugh out of it ..

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