While poll numbers show that virtually all of the candidates who have announced intention to run in the upcoming New Jersey gubernatorial primaries are relatively unknown to the general populous, candidate Twitter accounts offer up a different way to compare and contrast the candidate’s connectedness to the public.
A comparison of the Twitters of announced Democratic candidates Assemblyman John Wisniewski, former Ambassador Phil Murphy, state Senator Ray Lesniak, activist Bill Brennan and former undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury Jim Johnson show Wisniewski far outpacing his primary competitors on Twitter. Wisniewski has 14.1 thousand followers, Lesniak has about 7,400, Murphy has just over 4,000, Johnson has 282 followers and Brennan has 238 followers.
When compared with Republican candidates, the number of followers on Wisniewski’s account still far outpaces the competition. Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno has about 5,800 followers, businessman Joe Rullo has about 1,700 followers and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli has about 1,3000 followers. Comedian Joe Piscopo has not yet made his Republican candidacy official but if he does will be the candidate with the second-highest number of followers at 11.2 thousand.
Wisniewski’s Twitter follower lead may be partially attributable to his long career in the New Jersey Legislature. He was first elected in 1996 and started his online presence much sooner than the majority of his competitors in December 2009. Only Piscopo’s account is older with the comedian joining the social networking site in November 2009. Rullo joined in February 2011, Lesniak in March 2011, Brennan in May 2013, Ciattarellli in January 2012, Guadagno in February 2015, Murphy in September 2015 and Johnson in November 2016.
While Twitter has proven to be an efficient way for politicians to discourse with the public and media—something demonstrated in the 2016 presidential campaign and so far in the presidency of Donald Trump—there is no significant data demonstrating how that shift impacts voting.
Notably, only the accounts of Wisniewski and Guadagno have been verified by the site.
According to Wisniewski campaign manager Robert Becker, Twitter is an important way to connect with voters. He said that the platform’s authenticity is preferable to media buys like the ones Murphy’s campaign has been making since announcing last year.
“Ever since his first tweet in 2009, John Wisniewski has utilized Twitter as a way to engage with his constituents and younger New Jerseyans in an authentic and substantive dialogue,” Becker said. “John has always known that authenticity drives Twitter—and authenticity can’t be bought.”
According to Ricky Diaz, Guadagno campaign spokesman, the Lieutenant Governor has made her online presence a “priority for the campaign.”
The gubernatorial primaries will be held in June. In November, the Republican and Democratic candidates will face off in the general election.