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Facebook Releases Map Of Marriage Equality Support In America

According to a post from Facebook data scientist Eytan Bakshy, The viral marriage equality Facebook campaign started by the Human Rights Campaign was a success. Facebook users were urged to substitute their profile picture for a simple graphic supporting gay marriage.

having seen so many Facebook friends change their profiles photos in response to the debate, we wanted to know how widespread this phenomenon was across the country. To do this, we constructed a statistical model to estimate the likelihood that an individual in a given county would change their profile picture on March 26. Similar to the leftmost figure above, we compared the week-over-week increase — but since there are so many counties (3,141 in all), including some with few users, we also included data about the behavior of others in the same state and across the country to get a more stable estimate of the difference.

Which counties saw the largest increases in profile photo changes? Much to our surprise, we found that Washtenaw County — home of Ann Arbor, Michigan and the University of Michigan, this author’s alma mater, topped the list. Our model estimated that approximately 6.2% of Facebook users who logged in from this county changed their profile photos in response to the campaign.

Washtenaw County is not alone. Many of the top 25 counties that showed the greatest support for HRC’s campaign were home to college towns, including Orange (University of North Carolina), Durham (Duke University), Monroe (Indiana University), Johnson (University of Iowa), Athens (Ohio University), Dane (University of Wisconsin), Boulder (University of Colorado), and Travis (University of Texas at Austin).

People changing their profile pictures weren’t just in college towns. San Francisco County, San Mateo County (home of many tech companies), and Washington, D.C. also ranked highly. Surprisingly, while (log) population density was correlated with increases in profile updating (rho = 0.45), many counties housing large cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, showed only modest increases (2.4-2.9%) in support.

Read the full analysis via FACEBOOK