Number of candidates’ Facebook fans

We now stand at 17 mayoral candidates. Obviously only one of them will be our next mayor.

Several of them probably represent your view of what you’d like Calgary to be. But how do you decide who has a serious chance at winning – and should get your vote – and to which candidate would your vote be a throw-away?

Polls are one way to find out what other Calgarians are thinking. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been asked to participate in a poll. (I don’t have a home phone, so my opinion is automatically ineligible.) Plus, in these polls you can only pick one candidate, so we can’t really tell who else you are considering.

The good news is we have a freely accessible tool that represents the average Calgarian perfectly: Facebook.

The site’s demographics are almost exactly the same as Calgary’s. (Yes, people over the age of 45 do use the networking site, making up about 35 per cent of its users, while 34.4 per cent of Calgarians fall into this demographic.)

On Facebook you can tell who is considering multiple candidates — they are a “fan” of several. You can also tell who doesn’t care — they haven’t joined any candidate’s page. It takes everyone into account. More importantly, you can gauge each campaign’s momentum.

On Facebook it’s clear that Ric McIver is in the lead, and has been for some time. However, what is also clear is that his support has flatlined.

Naheed Nenshi and Barb Higgins, meanwhile, are gaining a following at a rate no other candidate has come close to sustaining. But will either of them have enough time to overtake McIver’s lead before election day? If the current trend continues, the answer for Nenshi is “yes,” and the answer for Higgins is “no.” Things can change over the next 45 days, however so I wouldn’t count either out.

It is also surprising that there is a very clear fourth candidate in this race. Kent Hehr is plodding along at a growth rate similar to the candidates below him, but he has almost double the “fans.”

However, he’s got a long way to go to catch up with the Big 3.

Everyone else has some soul-searching to do. If you can’t even drum up support on Facebook, I’m not confident you’ll be able to bring citizens together after you’re elected.