Updated Daily: French Presidential Election 2017 on Facebook

Le Pen and Mélenchon are leading on Facebook

Who will go to the second round in the French Presidential election? Can we see who is going to win from the social media engagement?

Update on 24.4.2017: Data is no longer updated. This page archives the Facebook engagement history of the candidates and the information can be used by other analysts.
Update on 24.4.2017: On the election day, the top two on Facebook were the winners: Le Pen and Macron. However, Le Pen’s and Mélenchon’s overall Facebook engagement was clearly higher than what the election results showed. In the US elections, social media engagement matched with the outcome of the election better than polls, but in the French elections, the poll results corresponded to the outcome. The implications are it may be best to focus on Facebook engagement shortly before the election and the data needs to be put in a wider context. Macron’s lower Facebook engagement during the spring was in stark contrast to that of Le Pen and Mélenchon, and needs more analysis.

Update on 23.4.2017 6 PM GMT: Le Pen’s gap to the others grows. Macron has taken the 2nd position from Mélenchon.

Update on 23.4.2017 2 PM GMT: Macron is going past Mélenchon on the Election Day.


The charts above represent the daily Facebook engagement for the French Presidential Candidates’ official Facebook pages during past seven days. Below is the total engagement (sum of reactions, shares and comments) for their pages from 23.2.  to present. The election day is 23.4.

Social media engagement can be a good predictor for political candidates’ success. Donald Trump’s Facebook engagement was much higher than Hillary Clinton’s, and predicted his victory. Read our analysis here. At the moment, the leader of the National Front party, Marine Le Pen, has biggest social media activity.

About a week before election day, polls have confirmed that the Left Party candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, representing his own movement “Unsubmissive France”, has bigger support than many expected at first. From the Facebook data we could see already earlier that there has been lot of interest towards Mélenchon in social media.

The Former Prime Minister, Republican François Fillon, came second for a long time. Around March 18 and 19, Mélenchon’s engagement went past Fillon. This was the time of a march with Mélenchon in Paris, and there was a huge peak in Mélenchon’s engagement. This was also  after Fillon’s “Penelopegate” that happened earlier in March, after he was alleged to provide illegal payments to his wife.

Curiously enough, the independent candidate and former Socialist Party member Emmanuel Macron – who has been leading the polls for a long time – has relatively low Facebook engagement. The other Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon’s Facebook page is smallest of the five “big” candidates.

The smaller center-right party Debout la France’s candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s engagement appoaches the “big” candidates’ figures – it is sometimes bigger than Macron’s or Hamon’s.

Marine Le Pen’s daily Facebook engagement had high spikes already in start of March. Her page, as well as Mélenchon’s and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s page, skyrocketed towards the end of March. This was during important events – especially the television debate on the channel TF1. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s engagement skyrocketed past all other candidates, to over 400K, on March 19 when he protested on television channel TF1 of not being included into the televised debate for the candidates.

Facebook engagement also contains negative reactions. François Fillon’s Facebook page saw a peak during the “Penelopegate” in the beginning of March. After the scandal, Fillon’s engagement has decreased.

The five biggest candidates’ pages’ engagement is almost constantly above 10K engagement daily, whereas for the smaller candidates, the engagement baseline is close to 500 engagements per day, and for some days, there is no activity at all. Philippe Poutou, whose engagement rose above 30K, even 40K at times, and François Asselineau, whose engagement has rosen over 10K several times, are interesting exceptions from the “small” ones. The other smaller candidates in the chart below are Jean Lassalle, Nathalie Arthaud and Philippe Poutou (Jacques Cheminade does not have a Facebook page).

With Trump and Clinton, we saw that t is not only the important events, but posting strategies also matter for politicians. Trump posted lots of live videos, and he posted more often than Clinton – especially during important events.

Le Pen’s and Macron’s posting strategy is dynamic. Earlier this spring we saw hot Emmanuel Macron strategically increased posting in the beginning of March, at the time of Fillon’s “Penelopegate” with his wife, which would benefit especially Macron. On 20th and 21th March, at the time of the French Debate – a big televised political debate between the candidates -, Le Pen’s Facebook page increased its posting frequency significantly and gained hundreds of thousands of engagement.

Marine Le Pen ass the most frequent poster. Benoît Hamon was the most frequent poster for a long time, but this was not always reflected in his engagement.

Fillon increased his posting constantly, but this did not have a big effect on his Facebook engagement. Mélenchon posted less than many others, but his engagement was high – in other words, his posts were more effective than the others’. He was doing particularly well when we look at average engagement per post.

Lack of posts would explain Macron’s surprisingly low Facebook engagement, but his Facebook page posts usually more than ten times a day – much like the other candidates’ pages.

 

What can we learn from here?

Based on the result of the US Presidential election, indicated by the huge social media engagement for Donald Trump, we could speculate – until the election day – that the candidetes’ order would be as follows: Le Pen, Mélenchon, Fillon, Macron and Hamon. Le Pen’s situation corresponded to what we knew from the polls, but when we started tracking the candidates’ pages, Mélenchon’s Facebook engagement was much bigger than what the poll results showed. His poll result, however, rose significantly towards the election day. Macron’s Facebook engagement was low in comparison to his popularity in polls – and in comparison to the election result.

 

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