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By Amy Tennery and Anjali Athavaley

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It may be too close to call between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, but the senator from Vermont was the clear winner on social media.

Sanders maintained his strong social media presence during the caucuses, commanding the majority of the Twitter mentions over Clinton. Sanders was mentioned over 77,000 times on Twitter during the caucus, while Clinton was mentioned 52,000 times, according to social media sentiment analytics firm Brandwatch.

Clinton, the Democratic front-runner and former secretary of state, was in a virtual tie with Sanders with more than 93 percent of Iowa precincts reporting.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, amassed the largest number of new Facebook followers of any candidate in the race during Monday, the social network said, topping Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump by 15,695 to 10,704. Clinton had the third most new followers, with 6,210 liking her page in the past day.

Among Republicans, Trump finished second in the caucuses to Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas.

Sanders resonated with Millennial social media users as well. Social media platform Yik Yak, which is particularly popular among younger social media users, said Sanders was mentioned in 60 percent of all yaks that discussed a Democratic candidate during the caucuses.

While social media buzz does not necessarily translate into votes, it is a good indication of the interest level surrounding a candidate.

The Iowa contest was the first of the state-by-state battles to pick nominees for the Nov. 8 election to succeed President Barack Obama.

Google trends data also showed strong interest in Sanders.

In Iowa, Sanders was the top-searched-for Democratic candidate on the search engine, with 52 percent of queries relating to the Democratic candidates. Clinton commanded 42 percent of queries. Even so, Trump was the top most-searched for presidential candidate overall, according to the most recent Google search data available.

 

(Reporting by Anjali Athavaley; Additional reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Peter Cooney)

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to reporters from his bus outside his campaign’s Iowa headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa February 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

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