Clickstream Prediction: Romney to Win the Palmetto State

It’s only mid-January, but we’re already starting to see how things are going to shake out for the Republicans in 2012.

The field has narrowed considerably since campaigning first began last summer, and with several lead changes to boot – Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, former frontrunners in the campaign, have both quit the race since December. Jon Huntsman rescinded his presidential bid ealier this week (along with his endorsement of Mitt Romney) and the latest drop-out, Rick Perry, just announced that he is exiting the race this morning. As we head into the third week of primary season and the remaining candidates ready themselves for the South Carolina primary to be held this Saturday, January 21st, I decided to investigate for myself how the primary is likely to turn out this Saturday.

Using Compete’s panel of over 2,000,000 online users* I measured how the candidates have been faring in terms of online interest over the past three weeks. The data tells an interesting story, both in South Carolina and nationwide.

After looking at all the unique visitors going to each of the candidate’s official campaign pages, it was apparent that Mitt Romney is the front runner. The chart below shows the top online interest among South Carolinians from January 1st to January 14th, with the ‘winner’ in terms of unique views (UVs) shaded for each county in the State.

UVs of Each Candidate's Facebook

Based on campaign site UVs, Romney is the clear winner, but strong second or third place finishes would keep the other candidates alive in this race. According to our South Carolina sample, Romney garnered nearly 50% of the interest last week (1/8 – 1/14) with Santorum and Gingrich vying for second place, with 20% and 16%, respectfully, of South Carolinians visiting their official campaign websites. This is reflected in the chart below.

Percent of Unique SC Visitors of Official Campaign Website

Romney’s and Santorum’s interest in South Carolina surged during the week of the Iowa Caucus (held on January 3rd) where they effectively tied for first place – with a margin of only 8 votes between them. Romney and Santorum have lost some ground to the other three candidates this past week; however, unique visitors to each of the candidate’s campaign sites has increased considerably week-over-week in the ramp up to this weekend’s primary. So the data seems to predict a win for Romney, with a close fight for second place between Santorum and Gingrich. Paul will likely place fourth in South Carolina and Perry would have placed last.

How are things shaping up for the candidates in the rest of the country though?

Among online Americans, Ron Paul seems to be getting a lot of attention along with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. These top three have all been hovering around 30% share of online voter interest these past three weeks. Below is a chart of distribution of Facebook page visitation for each of the four remaining Republicans in the race, plus Rick Perry, for each these critical last three weeks.

Share of UVs on EAch Candidate's FB Page

It will be down to four Republican presidential hopefuls heading into Florida at the end of the month and having already locked up a considerable amount of delegates with his wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney should certainly be well on his way to the GOP nomination with another victory in the Palmetto State this Saturday.

*Throughout the 2012 Republican Primaries, I will be using Compete’s 2,000,000+ person  panel to examine the weekly unique visitor (UV) traffic to each of the Republican primary candidate’s official campaign websites, campaign donation pages and official Facebook pages. I will conduct analysis at the county, state and national level to derive insights about the performance of candidates and offer predictions based on these trends in our sample data. In some instances (ie. At the county level) sample sizes may be low, but the data points are still interesting for directional analysis.

About Nathan Kollett:
Nathan Kollett is an Analyst in the Technology & Entertainment vertical at Compete. Nathan is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and earned his B.A. in Economics with a minor in Mathematics and Statistics. You can follow him on Twitter at @nathankollett and connect with him on on Linkedin