How Marco Rubio is Winning the Republican Twitter Primary
The Florida Senator enjoys a strong overlap in support with most of the competition
Published September 16, 2015

For those who don’t believe that Donald Trump or Ben Carson can win the Republican nomination–neither have any governing experience–the most important question is who their masses of supporters would pick as a second choice.

We can find one clue to these tangled allegiances in which candidates a person follows on Twitter. TIME Labs examined the 6.2 million people who follow at least one of the 16 candidates and looked at the overlaps for anyone who followed more than one.

What’s striking here is that, while Florida Senator Marco Rubio is only polling at around 5 percent, he is the most jointly followed candidate among 10 of his 15 competitors.

While all the usual caveats about Twitter data apply–the demographics are considerably younger than GOP primary voters, and a follower does not a voter make–it’s significant that so many people who follow any of the other candidates also follow him. This suggests that he may very well be the second choice of many people who support another candidate.

In a field of 16 that must eventually winnow to one, being anyone’s second choice is not a bad place to be.

All photos from Associated Press. With thanks to Twitter for permitting rapid collection of follower data.