Study: Facebook “Contagion” Can Boost Voter Turnout

A study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that peer pressure from Facebook friends can significantly increase voter turnout.

The study compared the effect on voter turnout of a generic Facebook message on election day urging someone to vote versus a voter-turnout message that included pictures of the person’s friends who said they voted. Results showed that the “social” messages were nearly five times more effective than the generic versions.

Researchers found that while the generic message drove 60,000 members of the study group to the polls, the messages that included friends’ pictures prompted 282,000 — 4.7 times as many — to cast votes in the 2010 midterm elections.

The researchers cited “social contagion” to explain the effect, more commonly known as peer pressure.

Although more than 61 million Facebook users participated in the study, the researchers limited their findings to the 6 million who they could find in state voting records to verify if they actually had voted, rather than just clicking the “I Voted” button to fit in with their friends, but never actually went to the polls.

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