Here’s something most politicians can “like”: Facebook friends played a big role in getting hundreds of thousands of people to vote in 2010, a new scientific study claims.
Facebook researchers and scientists at the University of California, San Diego conducted a massive online experiment in the mid-term congressional election to test and measure the political power of online peer pressure.
They found that people who got Facebook messages that their friends had voted were a bit more likely to go to the polls than those who didn’t get the same reminder. And from there the effect multiplied in the social network, they reported in Thursday’s journal Nature.
The friend-prodding likely increased voter turnout by as much as 340,000 in the non-presidential election that voted in a new Republican congress, the scientists calculated. They said that it could potentially change the outcome of close elections.
“Our study is the first large-scale scientific test of the idea that online social networks affect real world political behavior,” said study lead author James Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego.
He has studied friend and social media influences on public health and politics over the past decade. While pundits have pointed to social media-inspired revolutions in the Arab world, this is more verifiable scientifically because it is a controlled study comparing groups that had different inputs. It’s the voting equivalent of testing real drugs versus sugar pills.
Outside experts say the new study makes sense and fits with other research about how effective get-out-the-vote drives are, but say Fowler’s numbers may be a bit high. That’s because they factor in a large indirect effect, calculations which some didn’t find as convincing.
Nearly every American of voting age who logged into Facebook on Election Day 2010 was part of the experiment, even though they didn’t know it.
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article courtesy of BlackAmericaWeb.com