Social media can boost election turnout, says Facebook research
We’ve read so much about the use of social media in elections campaigns, how it is used to raise awareness and money, but the proof in the pudding, so to speak, is getting the vote out.
All that social media awareness counts for nothing if you can not on the day of the election get people voting.
So it’s interesting to read in the FT about how a single Facebook post on Election Day in 2010 increased US voter turnout by 340,000, according to a study led by the University of California, San Diego.
That kind of turnout spread over many election races could be enough to turn the tide one way of the other for numerous candidates.
What the research found was that peer pressure helped boost election turnout and showed that online social networks can affect political behaviour in the real world.
Simply put if you see you friends engaging with an election message you are more likely to do so yourself.
The single Facebook message in question was a non-partisan message seen sent on November 2, 2010, the day of US congressional elections. It was seen by 61m Facebook users and simply said “get out the vote” and included a clickable “I voted” button. It also included a link to local polling stations and a counter showing how many Facebook users had already voted.
Most importantly, however, it showed as many as six pictures of the individual’s Facebook friends who had reported voting — the kind of feature that encourages many of us to engage when we see it on Facebook as we’re interested in what others in our network are doing.
The researches sent different messages to another group, which did not see pictures of their friends, while a third group saw no message at all.
“The results suggested that the Facebook message directly increased turnout by 60,000, by reminding people to vote. But the indirect effect of the social network – social contagion among friends – yielded another 280,000 votes.
“Social influence made all the difference in political mobilisation,” said lead author James Fowler of UC San Diego. “It’s not the ‘I Voted’ button, or the lapel sticker we’ve all seen, that gets out the vote. It’s the person attached to it.”
The researchers did not find any differences in effects among self-described liberals and conservatives on Facebook, the FT reports.
Main image Bigstockphoto.com.