Facebook 'poke' gets out the vote

2012-09-12 22:20
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - A single Facebook message on a congressional election day in 2010 prompted about a third of a million more Americans to cast their vote, scientists said on Wednesday.

The biggest-ever experiment into social networking confirms that peer pressure in cyberspace helps get out the vote in the real world, they said.

On 2November 2010, 60 million Americans who logged onto Facebook saw a non-partisan prompt at the top of their newsfeeds.

It comprised a message that said "Today is Election Day"; a clickable "I Voted" button; a link to local polling places; a counter on how many Facebook users had already reported voting; and up to six pictures of close Facebook "friends" who said they had already voted.

A further 600 000 people were assigned to see a modified message. It was identical in all respects to the first, except that it had no pictures of friends who had voted.

A third group, also comprising 600 000 people, were a comparison, or "control". They did not receive any "Today is Election Day" prompt at all.

The researchers then examined how the Facebook users behaved.

By looking at public records from polling stations - but without revealing the identity of the voter or how they voted - the scientists estimate that those who received the informational message or no prompt voted in the same prevalence.

Where there was a difference was among the group that got the prompt along with the pictures of friends who had voted.

Those who received this "social" message were 0.39% likelier to cast their vote than the other groups.

Translated a different way, this amounts to an extra 60 000 votes cast by the "social message" recipients, say the scientists.

But they say the figure can be multiplied roughly fourfold nationwide because of social contagion - when friends tell others that they have voted, this can prompt peers to follow suit.

So by this count, some 340 000 people voted because of the Facebook "poke".

"Social influence made all the difference in political mobilisation," said James Fowler, a professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, who led the experiment.

"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 result also shows how the virtual world can have an impact on the real world, especially in electoral contests resting on a knife edge, he said.

In the 2000 US presidential election, George W  Bush beat Al Gore in Florida by 537 votes, or less than 0.01% of the vote - a result that gave Bush the White House thanks to the US electoral college system.

In a commentary, also appearing in the science journal Nature, New York University academic Sinan Aral said the test gave scientific backing to anecdotal evidence about the effectiveness of "viral marketing."

"But such interventions also have the potential to promote positive social changes, such as increasing the rate of HIV testing, reducing violence, improving adherence to exercise, or increasing political mobilisation and awareness," said Aral.

"In this way, the science of social influence may have dramatic implications for products, politics and public health."

- SAPA
Read more on:    facebook  |  us  |  social networks
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland
The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

HOUSES FOR SALE IN Paarl

Houses R 2 690 000

HOUSES FOR SALE IN Hermanus

Houses R 2 680 000

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may be...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.