The politicians have orated, the economic numbers pro and con have been run and Scottish voters, it seems, are just about evenly divided over the prospect of independence. As voters prepare to take to the polls Thursday to decide whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom, though, the debate already has one winner: Facebook.
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) has seen more than 10 million interactions related to the Scottish independence referendum, according to research it conducted over five weeks ending Sept. 8. And that's not counting the 10 days right before the vote. “Interactions” include comments, posts, likes and shares, 85 percent of which occurred among users located inside Scotland.
The number of interactions around the phrase “vote yes” was more than 1 million, twice the number of “vote no”-focused interactions. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the campaign for independence, drew 700,000 interactions, while Alistair Darling, who is leading the Better Together (No) campaign, was the subject of 250,000 interactions. The study comes as Facebook prepares to unveil an “I’m a voter” button for users who wish to announce to their friends that they participated in Thursday’s referendum.
“In just a month we’ve seen the referendum debate come to life on Facebook, with over 10 million posts, comments and likes relating to the debate,” Elizabeth Linder, Facebook’s politics and government specialist, told the Guardian.
“Studies show that when people see their Facebook friends talking about voting, they are more likely to vote themselves. We hope the ‘I’m a Voter’ button will make it easy for voters to share that they are taking part in the referendum at the end of months of debate and discussion.”
The numbers, while certainly reflective of a spirited debate, pale in comparison to the record 1 billion interactions Facebook attracted during the height of the 2014 World Cup tournament over the summer.
A number of recent polls on the referendum vote were effectively too close to call, with most forecasters saying the No campaign is narrowly favored to win.