Facebook has proved that it’s useful for more than posting pictures, stalking exes and playing imaginary agricultural games: It’s a powerful tool for mobilizing people to vote. An experiment involving more than 61 million people reveals that Facebook users who received a message that a friend had voted were more likely to go to the polls themselves.
“Prior work on political mobilization and motivation for voting has been focused on the individual,” says information economist Sinan Aral of New York University. “This paper presents really nice large-scale evidence that political mobilization is a peer-to-peer activity.”
The experiment also suggests that harnessing someone’s digital network of friends might be a tool for influencing other behaviors, such as getting people to quit smoking, says Aral.
Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.