WASHINGTON (CBS) — President Barack Obama’s campaign is leading the digital race against presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney in this year’s election, according to a study released Wednesday.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that Obama’s campaign was more active than Romney’s and generated more response from users on all major platforms. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the campaign websites were all dominated by the Democratic incumbent, even in the weeks following Romney’s clinching of the Republican nomination.

During the June 4-17 study period, Obama’s campaign posted an average of 29 messages per day compared to Romney’s average of one, according to Pew. The Obama campaign website and blog were updated an average of eight times a day, twice as often as Romney’s, Pew found.

Obama has been labeled by some media outlets as “the first online president” for his detailed and pervasive use of email chains, social media, and YouTube videos during the 2008 presidential election.

Obama’s social network appears to reach a much wider audience, according to Pew. The study indicated that Obama had more than 18 million followers on Twitter when it last audited the account, in August, compared to 787,080 for Romney. Obama’s Facebook page had 27.5 million supporters, compared to 2.9 million for Romney.

On Facebook, users expressed support for nearly twice as many Obama posts as they did Romney posts. Twitter users passed along, or retweeted, 150,106 Obama messages to their own followers, compared to 8,601 retweets of Romney posts, according to the study.

In 2008, Obama had five times as many supporters on Facebook as Republican rival John McCain had two months before the election.

“While more digital activity does not necessarily translate into more votes, historically candidates who are first to exploit changing technology have an advantage,” project director Tom Rosenstiel said in a statement to CNN. “From Roosevelt to Reagan, presidential candidates have used the way they communicate to suggest that they understand how the country is changing.”

According to the Pew study:

•Facebook generated the most attention for both candidates. Obama posts received 1.1 million “likes” during the study period, while Romney got 635,000.

•Obama’s campaign was significantly more active in directly messaging supporters than was Romney, with 614 posts to Twitter, Facebook and other web platforms. Romney posted 168 such messages during the same period.

•Obama’s campaign website specifically targets a richer variety of voter groups than does Romney’s, and uses direct messaging to send materials to those voters specifically tailored to their interests. Romney has since closed the gap, but still trails, Pew said.

•Neither of the candidates were doing much to engage voters in discussion on social media sites or promote citizen viewpoints. Pew found that of the 404 Twitter messages sent by Obama’s campaign during the study period, 3 percent were retweets of citizen comments. Romney’s camp retweeted just one message — by the candidate’s son.

•Social media users were more likely to share messages about topics other than the economy. Obama’s economic messages got an average of 361 shares or retweets per post, according to Pew, while messages about immigration received four times the attention. Romney users were more likely to respond to health care and veterans’ issues than economic topics.

-Benjamin Fearnow


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