News and Tribune

Election 2012

September 13, 2012

Facebook friends' voting has impact on Election Day turnout, study finds

(Continued)

"Given the modest treatment, it is surprising that they found any effect at all," said Gerald Kane, an associate professor of information systems at Boston College, who was not involved with the study.

The scientists concluded that the informational message was ineffective. The social message, on the other hand, was powerful because it probably provided social pressure on the users to vote by showing them that friends had reported voting, Fowler said.

The scientists found that for every recipient persuaded by the message to vote, four close Facebook friends — relationships identified by a high number of Facebook interactions — ended up voting as a result.

"We don't know how this works; it could be that on Facebook, you see that a friend has voted or that he simply takes you with him to vote," Fowler said.

The scientists could not find a difference between Republicans or Democrats who were activated by the message. But Fowler said the methods for discriminating between the two groups were primitive in this study — it involved reading the political preference written by users on their profiles, and only 1 percent of the users provided one. But for future studies, the team is developing more intricate analyses, inferring political orientation from what comments users write and where they place their "likes".

Many social scientists are eager to use Facebook's data for their experiments. "This is the most exciting research of my lifetime," Fowler said.

"This kind of approach should revolutionize our understanding of human behavior," said David Lazer of Northeastern University, a social network expert who is not associated with the study but is pursuing similar work.

In a conference call with reporters, Facebook's Marlow said that he could not comment directly on whether Facebook is planning something similar for this year's election but added that Facebook is committed to supporting the democratic process.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Election 2012
LOCAL MAGAZINES
Easter 2014 photos


Click on any photo to purchase it.

SPECIAL CONTENT
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage
2013 Photos of the year


Take a look at our most memorable photos from 2013.