(CNN) - With half the United States sharing what they’re doing, their photos and their opinions on Facebook, what’s being talked about on the site is a telling way of taking the nation’s political pulse.
CNN has teamed up with Facebook on a new resource that looks into how much the presidential and vice presidential candidates are being buzzed about.
The Facebook-CNN Election Insights measures and compares how many people are using the site to talk about President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan. The results show the power of the campaigns on Facebook and also reveal how the conversation changes depending the time, age, gender or location.
Both campaigns have made Facebook a part of their strategy and use it to drive buzz for their candidates. Obama’s campaign-run fan page has 27 million fans, while Romney’s page has more than 5 million. Ryan’s page has 1.8 million, and Biden falls fourth with 367,000 Facebook fans. Because of the large number of fans amassed by each candidate, each campaign has the ability to drive election chatter with just one post.
For example, the insights reveal a giant spike for Obama around noon ET last Saturday, the same time his campaign posted a photo of the Obama family with a sentimental message from the president about his two daughters Sasha and Malia.
“I’m inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart,” the post says, “They make me work to make the world a little bit better. And they make me want to be a better man.”
Within two days, this post drew in more than 400,000 likes, more than 33,000 shares and nearly 20,000 comments.
Romney drew in even more buzz last Tuesday evening with a post asking for ‘likes’ to help the page reach five million fans. It had a clear impact, as nearly 700,000 people liked the post and the campaign followed up on Friday announcing it had surpassed the milestone.
With such a diverse demographic on Facebook, not all mentions come from the same people. Each candidate has groups that buzz more about them than others.
When Facebook mentions are broken down by age, the statewide heat map highlights a clear skew of younger people talking about Obama and older Americans discussing Romney. The majority of 18-24 year olds mention Obama more than Romney in every single state except Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia and Utah. Likewise, people older than 55 are discussing Romney more in every state except Vermont and Hawaii, the state in which Obama was raised. The age breakdown bar-chart also highlights the power of those who are 55 and older, as they are mentioning the candidates and interacting with their fan pages more than any other age group.
A gender gap is also apparent between the candidates: Among men, Romney is being mentioned more than Obama in every state except New York, Vermont and Hawaii. Among women, the chatter is much more split, with Obama getting more of mentions in the Northeast, West, and much of the Midwest.
The chatter is based on daily unique mentions, which is the number of people who either include a post or interact with that candidate’s fan page at least once a day.
This includes all conversation both positive and negative. The tool also shows if a candidate is gaining or losing momentum by displaying a percentage of how much each candidate’s buzz changed from 24 hours before.
"Facebook is naturally a place where friends engage in political discourse,” says Elliot Schrage, vice president-corporate communications & public policy at Facebook, “The Facebook-CNN Election Insights tool will offer an interactive, real-time glimpse into how and where this conversation is taking place across the country.”
The number of people on Facebook is staggering and still rapidly growing. There are more people on Facebook than there were total voters in 2008, a year of record turnout. Four years ago, Facebook averaged 100 million active users worldwide. Today, that number is rapidly approaching 1 billion.
As the conversation continues on Facebook, you can take a closer look at the conversation using Facebook-CNN Election Insights interactive dashboard at CNN.com/FacebookInsights and keep an eye on the trends.