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Nate Silver, founder of FiveThirtyEight
Nate Silver, founder of FiveThirtyEight

Facebook has built an interactive map for users to track the number of likes for each of the candidates for US President and which area those likes come from.

To do this, the social network has teamed with FiveThirtyEight, the data analysis and polling outfit created by Nate Silver, the sultan of statistics. Apparently, Facebook seeks to provide users a means to gauge which way the political winds are blowing on the social network.

The map enables users to “choose specific candidates and areas of the map… and compare how candidates stack up against each other in particular counties and states.”

FiveThirtyEight, which Silver founded in 2008 and sold to ESPN in 2013, certainly has a good reputation for crunching polling data. Silver made a name for himself by correctly predicting the outcome in 49 of the 50 US states during the 2008 Presidential race. That said, Facebook and FiveThirtyEight don’t provide any analysis on the likelihood that a Facebook user will vote  for a candidate he or she has liked. But on FiveThirtyEight’s site, the blog makes clear the data “isn’t predictive of the election.”

That’s good because some analysts and politicians hate polls like this. Critics argue that they can influence voters and could be harmful if the polls aren’t accurate.

A screen shot of the interactive map created by Facebook and FiveThirtyEight (Credit: FiveThirtyEight).
A screen shot of the interactive map created by Facebook and FiveThirtyEight (Credit: FiveThirtyEight).

Facebook seems to just want to provide an interesting way for users to measure a candidate’s Facebook following.

Some of the tidbits from map so far: Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is the favorite of many college students, even in Republican-dominated states. In “red states,” Sanders has more likes in areas near campuses than the top Republican candidates. Two examples of this, Facebook says, are at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

Facebook says that among the top three Republican candidates, Donald Trump has the most Facebook support. On the other side of the aisle, Sanders has nearly three times more likes than candidate Hillary Clinton.

Sounds fun. But maybe it’s good to keep in mind the cartoon that has circulated on Facebook in recent weeks. Batman and Robin are talking politics when Robin says: “I like Bernie but he can’t wi…” That’s when Batman slaps him and says “Vote for him and he will win.”

The message, of course, is to vote your conscience.

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