I know that Facebook numbers are not everything. It’s about change in the real world, activism etc.

But if at least clicking a ‘Like’ button on Facebook is some sort of symbol of political engagement, then this is how the Danish political parties stack up before the election due on September 15th. These figures are correct as of today, 31st August, and should be read against the checkfacebook.com stats for today showing 2723140 Danes have a Facebook account, and a population of Denmark of 5529888 according to the CIA World Factbook.

As well as the raw numbers I’ve added some activity scores from Facebook Grader and Momentus. The latter gives a more detailed breakdown of levels of activity on a page. These are of course no substitute for full research, but give a more complete picture than just totals numbers of likes.

Parties organised (roughly) from left to right

Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen – 32655 (FB Grader: 87/100, Momentus: 100th percentile, 1468 Likes on posts/day)
Enhedslisten – 16127 (FB Grader: 82/100, Momentus: 100th percentile, 685 Likes on posts/day)
Total Likes – 48782 (10.97%)

Villy Søvndal – 94391 (FB Grader: 92/100, Momentus: 97th percentile, 1355 Likes on posts/day)
SF – 11736 (FB Grader: 79/100, Momentus: 94th percentile, 80 Likes on posts/day)
Total Likes – 106127 (23.87%)

Helle Thorning-Schmidt – 112964 (FB Grader: 93/100, Momentus: 95th percentile, 1051 Likes on posts/day)
Socialdemokraterne – 31100 (app, cannot grade)
Socialdemokraternes supportergruppe – 9846 (FB Grader: 78/100, Momentus: 95th percentile, 98 Likes on posts/day)
Total Likes – 153910 (34.61%)

Margrethe Vestager – 22305 (FB Grader: 84/100, Momentus: 97th percentile, 337 Likes on posts/day)
Radikale Venstre – 6793 (FB Grader: 75/100, Momentus: 98th percentile, 146 Likes on posts/day)
Total Likes – 29098 (6.54%)

Anders Samuelsen – 222 (FB Grader: 36/100, Momentus: 0th percentile, 0 Likes on posts/day)
Liberal Alliance – 9860 (FB Grader: 78/100, Momentus: 99th percentile, 257 Likes on posts/day)
Total Likes – 10082 (2.27%)

Lars Løkke Rasmussen – 58763 (FB Grader: 90/100, Momentus: 98th percentile, 1013 Likes on posts/day)
Venstre – 7723 (FB Grader: 76/100, Momentus: 98th percentile, 129 Likes on posts/day)
Total Likes – 66486 (14.95%)

Bjarne Hartung Kirkegaard – 41 (FB Grader: 13/100, Momentus: 0th percentile, 0 Likes on posts/day)
Kristendemokraterne – 176 (FB Grader: 31/100, Momentus: 45th percentile, 0 Likes on posts/day)
Total Likes – 217 (0.05%)

Lars Barfoed – 3682 (FB Grader: 68/100, Momentus: 95th percentile, 35 Likes on posts/day)
Konservative – 4733 (FB Grader: 70/100, Momentus: 97th percentile, 66 Likes on posts/day)
Total Likes – 8415 (1.89%)

Pia Kjærsgaard – 16919 (FB Grader: 82/100, Momentus: 98th percentile, 191 Likes on posts/day)
Dansk Folkeparti – 4607 (group – cannot be analysed)
Total Likes – 21526 (4.84%)

Total Likes (all parties and leaders) –  444643

This total figure is over 15% of the Danish population on Facebook, but of course the research does not deal with overlaps (percentages liking more than 1 leader or party).

Anyway, what to conclude from this?

Firstly, the left is doing much better than the right, with the Social Democrats and SF far in the lead in terms of Facebook recruitment. Dansk Folkeparti does not seem to even have an organised Facebook presence. This could reflect the traditional demographics of the parties, the amount of online organisation, better leaders, or the freedom of being in opposition, or some combination of those factors.

Secondly, in a European comparison the numbers are impressive – Puglia governor Nichi Vendola is the European leader with 518356 likes (more than 3 x Helle’s total), but he’s from a country with 10 x the population of Denmark. So per head of population Helle is probably Europe’s most popular politician on Facebook.

Thirdly, the stats for party leaders are almost universally larger than the parties themselves – character matters in the campaign for Facebook support.

Fourth, the amount of content added daily by admins (and hence the number of likes) varies a lot. Søvndal and Schmidt-Nielsen update more often and generate more reaction. Particularly Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s level of activity is lower than it should be, considering she’s clear leader in terms of number of Page Likes.

More work needs to be done to look into this, but I hope this post is food for thought (or a pølse til eftertanke or something like that).

NOTE: this post has been updated and corrected a couple of times, but the Like numbers are correct as of 30th August.

Addendum – populist parties
Thanks to the comment from Norwegian Guy below, I have looked at a few right wing, populist parties across Europe, and indeed the numbers are odd. Dansk Folkeparti (see above) and Vlaams Belang in Belgium (party – 8982 Likes, leader – no presence) are poor. FPÖ in Austria (leader – 104512 Likes, party – no presence, just a community page), and Fremskrittspartiet in Norway (leader – 66209 Likes, party – 36967 Likes) are performing very well. Depends on the style of a leader’s populism?

8 Comments

  1. Have now voted. I posted a photo of the material laid out by the Embassy (names of parties, list of municipalities and the press release (?) from the Interior ministry about the call for election). Wonder if any of the politicians will respond to their tag on the photo… I couldn’t properly tag Pia Kjærsgaard or Bjarne Hartung Kirkegaard. But I tried. So they probably will not respond.

  2. Two things that the tracking of who likes who on Facebook fails to take into account is
    – the people (like me) who like people/party-pages to keep track of what is going without the “like” expressing any feelings towards the party and the person
    – the vast amount of people who would vote for a non sociably acceptable party but who would not admit to it in the public sphere of Facebook. This may be both the populist/extremist parties and also just right/left wing parites according to what your peer group thinks.

    But even if the numbers might not be accurate, it’s still interesting to see them. Also must show something about internet-use among the people who chose to “like” a certain party.

  3. I think there is an easier explanation for Kjærsgaard’s low number. You just didn’t find the right page…

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pia-Kj%C3%A6rsgaard/33510214383 has 16 864 likes.

    The Danish numbers had surprised me, since it’s well known that the anti-immigration right has a large online presence, both in its populist and its more extreme forms. Looking at the comment sections after newspaper articles, you’d expect that the Progress Party (or parties further to the right) had at least 2/3 of the votes…

    Looking over the UK numbers, you would have to conclude that David Cameron (144 452 likes) is the most popular politician, followed by Nick Clegg (85 847 likes). Everyone else is far behind. Tony Blair (21 841 likes) is the most popular in Labour, while Ed Miliband (10 871 likes) is only barely ahead of Nick Griffin (7235 likes). You’ll find Gordon Brown’s (5500 likes) after passing a dozen hate pages. Nigel Farage has three different sites in the 5000-8200 likes range, while Caroline Lucas has 5211 likes. Alex Salmond, the leader of a party who recently got about 45% of the votes in a country about the size of Denmark, only has 1549 likes. At least he’s ahead of Ieuan Wyn Jones, who only has 58 supporters on Facebook.

    Of the Northern Irish leaders, Gerry Adams (4126 likes – some probably from the Republic of Ireland) and Martin McGuinness (2617 likes) are far ahead, and even Margaret Ritchie (309 likes) at least have a presence, while Peter Robertson and David Campbell are so poorly liked – or have so generic names – that they are hard to find among authors, athletes and musicians with the same names. Perhaps UK politicians have a much smaller Facebook presence than (at least) their Danish and Norwegian colleagues does?

    Of the parties, the Conservatives has 148 750 likes, Labour Party 111 928, and the Liberal Democrats 96 113. The British National Party gets a frightening 77 775 likes. While it would be wonderful if Denmark ran it’s elections on Facebook, it would have been terrible in Britain…

    It’s interesting to note that in UK, the parties generally have more likes than the party leaders, while it’s opposite in Scandinavia. I would have expected the opposite being the case, since the British FPTP system is more person-focused than the Scandinavian PR-List systems.

    By the way, I don’t know if it’s correct to place Liberal Alliance in the political centre. It’s basically a libertarian party with the most right-wing economic policies of all the Danish parties. I think Venstre, and perhaps even Det Konservative Folkeparti, are closer to the Social Democrats than LA is. On the other hand, going purely by economic policy you would have had to place Dansk Folkeparti in the centre, so it’s hard to place the parties along a one-dimensional line. Danish politics have very much become divided along two orthogonal axes, and have become a bit weird, even by Nordic standards. The Conservatives sometimes support more liberal social policies than the so-called Liberals in Venstre!

  4. Would be very interesting to have a website that would gather this data from all parties in the EU.

  5. See this – should make such a league table easy enough to make…

    The problem however is when we are not comparing like with like – i.e. some parties still use groups, Socialdemokraterne have an app etc. – I don’t know how we would automate that…

  6. @Norwegian Guy – thanks for the Norwegian numbers! A graph of Stoltenberg’s support before and after 22 July would be interesting to see…

    @Antonella – I am not convinced by my own argument! 🙂 The problem is: what do these numbers mean? For Vendola, for Helle Thorning-Schmidt, indeed for any politician? I don’t know how valid the comparisons are. However numbers without context are really useless. Part of the point of this little bit of research was to put the Danish experience in some sort of international context, even though I am very aware of the limits to that.

  7. Antonella

    Jon, I’m not exactly convinced by your argumentation.
    Don’t get me wrong: I don’t know anything about Danish politics so you might be right in the end.
    But the comparison with Vendola seems wrong to me for two reasons:
    – first of all, you can’t assume that the things would be the same if Denmark had the same population of Italy (and it’s not just a matter of numbers)
    – second, Vendola is a) not a moderate candidate, b) a governor not running on a national level and not even belonging to the Democratic Party (he’s a leader of a small leftist party that is proving to be more of a leader’s party)
    What I mean is that there are too many factors involved to make a comparison based on number: if you ask me about Vendola, I would say that he is more popular than the average governor and it has national impact. But most likely he would never be the candidate of the center-left coalition.

    He’s doing great online, but I wouldn’t draw other assumptions from that. So that makes me think about this comparison.

  8. More popular per capita on Facebook? Perhaps http://www.facebook.com/jensstoltenberg with 254 897 likes, after a large increase in late July.

    http://www.facebook.com/Arbeiderpartiet has 42 915 likes.

    To compare, Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress Party has 66148 likes – still more than the Danish Prime Minister. The Conservatives are the other large opposition party, but their leader, Erna Solberg only has 9139 likes. The huge difference between Jensen and Kjærsgaard in this regard is interesting.

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