06/21/2011 03:03 pm ET | Updated Aug 21, 2011

The 2012 Presidential Race Heats Up on Facebook

Facebook, not surprisingly, is a hotbed for political brand advertising -- particularly as the 2012 race heats up.

SocialCode, a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company, just completed a Republican political message study on Facebook (between May 23 and June 4) in which random users in Iowa and New Hampshire were asked to show their support by clicking "Like" in response to randomly displayed image combinations of seven declared or prospective candidates (or the GOP's iconic elephant) with five common Republican messages.

So how do Facebookers fare for GOPDA?

According to the researchers,:

• Every message from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin received the highest "Like" rate in both New Hampshire and Iowa;

• "Values," placing fourth of the five-item message list across candidates, are a major driver for Palin, for whom the values-oriented message performs significantly better than does a focus on the economy;

• Palin is the only one of the seven potential candidates where economic messaging scores last;

• The most resonant GOP message is to tack against the president; of five common GOP themes for winning back the White House in 2012, a straight-ahead anti-Obama message tested best;

• President Obama's health care overhaul generates the sharpest opposition in this online message test;

• While some GOP strategists see Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health plan as his Achilles' heel in the nomination fight, an "anti-ObamaCare" message performs nearly as well for the former governor as does an economic one.

Rank order of 2012 GOP messages (by "Like" rate)

Message Overall Iowa New Hampshire

Anti-Obama 26% 24% 27%

Healthcare 21% 23% 20%

Economy 18% 19% 17%

Values 17% 17% 18%

National security 17% 17% 18%

On a state by state basis, the health care message rivals the basic anti-Obama meme in Iowa, but in New Hampshire, the health care message fails to resonate as clearly.

Looking by age group, researchers found the economy is a stronger message for younger adults in Iowa and New Hampshire, and values-based and national security messages are the lowest performers across all age groups;

On the study's gender analysis, the anti-Obama message resonates far better with men than it does with women.

"If the 2008 campaign proved one thing, it's that social media works when it comes to reaching voters who are researching issues online, reading blogs and debating issues with friends on Facebook," said SocialCode's General Manager, Laura O'Shaughnessy.

"SocialCode's methodology is focused on getting the exact right ads in front of users, allowing politicians and brands to tailor messages to maximize positive response among different segments of the population."

America has come a long way since the days of stump speeches on the radio, presidential debates on TV, and even more recently, online town halls.

Now, the court of public opinion can be targeted and manipulated by "Likes" on the world's largest social network platform where social codes can sway a Presidential election.

Originally published on