If Facebook “likes“ were votes, then Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders would be striking ahead, while rivals Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz would be practising their farewell speech.
A new interactive map from FiveThirtyEight called the "Facebook Primary" shows who is "liking" which candidates and in which states.
It finds that Republicans Ben Carson and Donald Trump have huge social media followings, and that Democrat Bernie Sanders is popular in college towns.
In fact, Facebook "likes" reveal that Mr Sanders would be set to beat Ms Clinton nationwide by a nearly three-to-one margin. Furthermore, Mr Trump looks on track to gather more support than rivals Mr Cruz and Marco Rubio combined.
In New York City, where both Ms Clinton and Mr Trump are based, the “likes” come in from different areas. Ms Clinton picks up most social media favour in Manhattan and Williamsburg, while Mr Trump is “liked” throughout Staten Island, south Brooklyn and parts of the Bronx.
The team behind the project have warned that the data sample is skewed, however. Although Facebook is used by 58 per cent of American adults, Facebook users are disproportionately young - although not as young as users of other social media networks. Facebook users also tend to be low-income and female.
Not everyone has liked a candidate’s page, and candidates’ pages have been in existence for varying periods of time.
Nonetheless the results are telling. Senator Sanders is already thanking women voters for boosting his win in New Hampshire last week, and he is also gathering support from students.
The more traditional way to measure the public's inclination is via polling, but this measure is not always correct.
Polls running up to the Iowa caucus indicated that Donald Trump was set to win on the Republican side, yet he came in number two following Ted Cruz.
Polls indicate that Ms Clinton and Mr Trump are set to win the next primaries in South Carolina, thanks to their support from African Americans and evangelical voters respectively, as reported by CBS.
These results run contrary to the South Carolina Facebook map, which indicate that Mr Sanders is 7 per cent ahead of Ms Clinton and that Mr Carson is 10 per cent ahead of Mr Trump.Reuse content