Facebook peer pressure gets out the vote

People who were told their pals went to the polls were more likely to cast ballots themselves

2:30pm, September 12, 2012

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.

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