The post-election tech tally: Winners and losers

Here's who rose and fell from a technology standpoint after one of the most fascinating political races to the finish line in memory.

CNET News staff
5 min read
President Obama and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg at 2012 Facebook Town Hall, April 20th, 2011 Christopher Dilts/Obama for America

Elections are all about winners and losers, who is up and who is down. Here's a CNET look at the winners and losers in the 2012 election in which President Obama bested former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, from a tech perspective.


Nate Silver: The FiveThirtyEight forecaster's algorithms correctly calculated that on election day President Obama had a nearly 92-percent chance of winning, and accurately projected the voting outcome in 49 states (Florida has not yet been called).

Read: Obama's win a big vindication for Nate Silver, king of the quants

Big data: Many, especially in the Republican camp, were skeptical of the predictions offered by Silver and other data crunchers. But it turned out that Silver and his peers were able to predict with high accuracy how the contest for the White House and other races would play out. 

Data mining and analysis have become a key currency that drives results in elections, just like any other business. "A tremendous amount of info is collected and available. It's going to change the business of politics," said Jascha Franklin-Hodge of BlueStateDigital, which works with Obama campaign. "It will allow campaigns to be more effective in their messaging. More effective in finding the right people to engage in the right ways, at the right time of day, through the right platforms, to give people experiences that are more tailored to them, and more compelling for them."

Read: Time: Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win

Quants: Are you a math wiz and quantitative analyst who isn't working for Google, Goldman Sachs or Obama? There are high-paying jobs for people who have the skills that can help companies better predict the future and bend outcomes.

Social media: According to the Pew Research Center, 22 percent of registered voters shared how they voted with others on social networking sites. In addition, the survey showed that 30 percent of registered voters were encouraged to vote for a presidential candidate via input received on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook from friends and family

Pew Research Center

Twitter: An estimated 32 million tweets referencing the U.S. presidential election were sent Tuesday, with more than 23 million sent after the first polls closed this afternoon. Activity peaked at 8:19 p.m. PT when the major TV networks declared Obama the president, generating 327,452 tweets per minute, Twitter said. That surpassed the 85,273 tweets per minute that accompanied the announcement that Iowa's electoral votes had gone to Obama just seven minutes earlier. Also, Twitter stood up to the challenge without buckling on the record-setting day for the service.

Read: Obama 'four more years' tweet skyrockets to No. 1 retweet

Reddit: Obama held a Q&A on Reddit during the campaign, and summoned voters via Reddit on election day. In August, the president answered nine questions, and Reddit users talked back with more than 13,600 comments as the site was brought to its knees. "Our team pitched it because it's a big community of folks who are driving a lot of the conversation. It's the homepage of the Internet, and we wanted to be part of it,"  said Joe Rospars, the Obama campaign's chief digital strategist.

Read: Obama returns to Reddit to drum up last-minute votes

Facebook: More than 9.6 million Facebook users of voting age signaled to their social networks that they voted through the "I Voted" button Facebook made available, according to the social network. That compared to 5.4 million clicks in 2008, when Facebook only had 35.5 million U.S. users. It now has about 171 million users in the U.S.

The company's data team used a "Talk Meter" yesterday to measure the overall chatter around the event and any terms associated with the Election, ranking them on a scale of 1 - 10. The Talk Meter is used for other events, including the presidential debates. Election 2012 buzz came in at a 9.27. This is in comparison to the 2008 presidential election, which drew an 8.95.

Read: Obama victory photo smashes Facebook 'Like' record

Joe Rospars (Credit: BlueStateDigital)

Joe Rospars: The Obama campaign's digital wizard from BlueStateDigital has steered through two straight elections and defined how digital media is used to support candidates. For comparison, the president has nearly 23 million Twitter followers and more than nearly 33 million Facebook 'likes'; Romney has less than 1.8 million Twitter followers and 12.1 million Facebook 'Likes.'

Online advertising: The money is beginning to flow from TV and radio to online, including mobile devices. "Nothing else has the scale and flexibility of digital....This is the first campaign in history where digital advertising moves from a list building and fundraising application to persuasion and mobilization.... It's the first step in television moving away as the only source, said Zac Moffat, Romney's digital director.  

Instagram: The Facebook-owned photo-sharing service officially became another prominent way to capture the zeitgeist of the election, in hundreds of thousands of images. The New York Times, among others, curated Instagram photos from election day to capture the experience.  

Read: An Election Day Instagram is worth a thousand tweets

Instagram photos curated by the New York Times

Startups: The election provided some opportunities for startups to hitch a ride with campaigns. While the Obama team developed more of their own technology over the last six years, the Romney campaign utilized Rally.org and Square for fundraising activities, for example.  

Read: Pando Daily: In the Red Corner, Zac Moffatt Leads Romney's Digital Drive to Topple Obama


Romney's digital campaign: While Romney's team couldn't alter the demographics that ultimately doomed his presidential aspirations, his digital operation couldn't keep up with Obama's, which better leveraged the social networks and data at its disposal to get out the vote in the right places and raise money from small donors. 

Read: TechPresident: For Romney's Digital Campaign, a Second-Place Finish

Pundits who thought Nate Silver was crazy: Karl Rove, Dick Morris, George Will, Michael Barone, Joe Scarborough and others who were dismissive of the quantitative polling analysis by Silver and others forecasting the statistical probability that Obama would reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win reelection. 

Google+: While Facebook and Twitter are publishing data touting election day activity, Google hasn't had much to say about the activity on its social network. On the other hand, Google's voter information data, which helped voters locate their polling places and find information on candidates, was used over 22 million times Tuesday, Google said.  

Updated 2:50p.m. PT: Correcting number of Reddit Q&As