Analysis

Facebook and Voter Turnout

A study conducted by the University of California, San Diego, found that peer pressure on Facebook helps increase voter turnout. 

The experiment was carried out on a massive scale during the 2010 mid-term election, with 60 million Facebook users viewing a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote notice. Users could click on an “I Voted” button as well as see photos of their friends who reported having voted.

An additional 600,000 users were randomly assigned a modified message, which did not include pictures of their friends who voted. And still 600,000 more got no message.

The study estimates that 60,000 people voted in 2010 because they saw the full message directly.

The real impact of the message, though, was reflected in the 280,000 people who voted because their friends, who received the full message, especially close friends, reported having voted.  The researchers arrived at this number by comparing turnout among friends of those who saw the full message—and were able to share their “I Voted” status—with friends of those who saw no message.

However, the researchers also found that, according to voter records, 4 percent of people who reported having voted on Facebook actually did not vote.

Currently, individuals in two states—Washington and Nevada—are also able to register to vote using Facebook.