Ahead of the 2006 mid-terms, The New Republic's Ryan Lizza declared that contest the "YouTube Election." Vanity Fair's James Wolcott last month took the same title and applied it to the 2008 contest. In 2012, the same moniker will likely be applied by another political scribe. The point is: YouTube has become a political force, whether it be its debate sponsorships (its Republican face-off is tonight) or the campaign and user-generated videos (both offensive and defensive) posted to the site.
Katie Paine, a PR measurement veteran and blogger who runs KDPaine & Partners, sent over some interesting data on YouTube, the New Hampshire primary, and the 2008 presidential race. With her company based in Berlin, N.H., she has an obvious interest in the Granite State, so she looked at all the campaign-related videos that mentioned a candidate and New Hampshire, which recently voted to keep its status as the nation’s first primary state.
Paine didn’t find much correlation between YouTube views and candidates’ status in the polls. But online fundraising prowess could suggest a link, and if you add up the number of video views for all the candidates the number tops eight million. That’s a sizeable interest in a medium that barely registered in the last election.
The most active candidate on YouTube is Ron Paul, the Republican maverick who has surprised handicappers with his grassroots support. According to Paine, Paul garnered 40 percent of the total views (about 3.1M), a significant number considering he trails distantly in most polls. I should point out that Paul and his supporters have has also posted the most videos on YouTube, 559, with Barack Obama second at 462 videos. The closest to Paul in overall views were Obama and John McCain (w/ 273 videos), at 11 and 10 percent, respectively. Paine noted that Paul has a strong and active cadre of supporters pushing his message via social media and suggested that may have helped with his surprising third-quarter fundraising prowess.
John Edwards, who has the ‘Net political guru Joe Trippi behind him and adopted social media like Facebook and Twitter early on, grabbed only 603K views, or 7.3 percent.
Notably, Edwards’ tally is only slightly more than Hillary Clinton, who leads many polls but came in fifth in the Paine ranking with 602K views, more than 300K behind Obama’s 956K.
Paine also gauged the average rating the YouTube viewers gave to campaign-created videos. Joe Biden, who registered a small percentage of overall views, nevertheless tied Paul for the highest average user rating at 4.88. Edwards, Obama and Romney were within a half-point of one another and Clinton rounded out the bottom with a paltry 3.23 average rating. (Chalk that up as another unfavorable rating for Hillary.)
Paine also pointed out that as the primaries near, several candidates—Biden, Mike Huckabee, Obama, Fred Thompson and Bill Richardson—are showing the greatest increase in activity on YouTube.
Here’s Paine’s data on total number of YouTube video views by candidate, with the number of videos posted by their campaigns or supports in parentheses:
Ron Paul — 3,142,487 (559)
Barack Obama — 968,516 (462)
John McCain — 829,503 (273)
John Edwards — 603,393 (426)
Hillary Clinton — 602,339 (356)
Rudy Giuliani — 571,271 (205)
Mitt Romney — 515,814 (225)
Fred Thompson — 273, 818 (112)
Joe Biden — 237,840 (136)
Mike Huckabee — 152,429 (141)
Bill Richardson — 83,016 (153)
Al Gore — 77,782 (61)
Paine's data (here's a PDF summary) clearly shows the significant number of eyeballs that have been trained on the site for candidate news in this cycle.