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New Data Shows Mark Zuckerberg's US Tour Isn't Helping His Image

The Facebook CEO's yearlong tour of the US — part charm offensive and part focus group — isn't helping the public's perception of him.

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For the past 10 months, Mark Zuckerberg has crisscrossed America. His 30-state trip has been both a charm offensive and a focus group, a chance to step out of his bubble in Silicon Valley and see how different communities use Facebook. He’s toured a train yard in Nebraska, chatted with “folks” in Texas, fished in Alaska, and fed a calf in Wisconsin, all while sharing finely crafted updates with his 97 million Facebook followers.

The campaign-style tour has generated speculation Zuckerberg might run for president in 2020 (he told BuzzFeed News he’s not planning on it). But it hasn't done much to improve the public’s perception of him, according to new data obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Zuckerberg’s Q Score, a measure of how public figures are regarded by the public, has not changed significantly since January 2016, according to Henry Schafer, executive vice president at Marketing Evaluations, Inc., which measures Q Scores.

A Q Score is a widely used likability rating for public figures that’s derived by measuring the percent of people familiar with a public figure who say that person is one of their favorite personalities. Elon Musk’s Q Score, for instance, is 24%, while Bill Cosby’s is in the single digits.

Zuckerberg’s positive Q Score increased from 14% to 16% between January 2016 and September 2017, Schafer said. Meanwhile, his negative Q Score, which is the percent of people who rate him “fair” or “poor,” increased from 22% to 23%. Zuckerberg’s Q Score rates similarly to Ashton Kutcher, Rachael Ray, Charles Barkley, and Mark Cuban, who all have positive Q Scores of 16.

“The net effects were a couple points up, but not significant overall,” Schafer told BuzzFeed News. “You need about a five-point change in either direction to be significant.”

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment, instead pointing BuzzFeed News to Zuckerberg's post announcing the tour, where he said, "My work is about connecting the world and giving everyone a voice. I want to personally hear more of those voices this year."

Zuckerberg’s recent embrace of sharing candid personal details on Facebook — he’s transformed from a relatively private person to someone who regularly shares photos of his kids at home — doesn’t seem to be helping much either. In 2011, Zuckerberg’s positive Q Score was 19%, three points higher than it is today, meaning he’s actually less popular among those who know him now than he was six years ago.

Meanwhile, data from Morning Consult, a survey research technology company, shows perceptions of Facebook among Clinton voters, Trump voters, and the general public haven’t changed much, even when compared to before the 2016 election.

Zuckerberg’s Q Score was measured largely before the revelation that Facebook sold $100,000 in ads to a Kremlin-linked entity seeking to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and sow discord in its aftermath. Facebook, which along with its fellow tech giants is lately facing a more skeptical public, could benefit if Zuckerberg were more popular. But though his tour may have provided the company other benefits, it isn't delivering a perception bump.

Zuckerberg has worked hard to become more relatable to the masses, and he’s going to need all the likability he can muster as Facebook faces an unprecedented crisis set off by the Russian ads admission. Both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are holding open hearings next week to investigate Russia’s manipulation of its platform in an effort to undermine American democracy. Zuckerberg is not expected to attend.

Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.

Contact Alex Kantrowitz at alex.kantrowitz@buzzfeed.com.

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