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Facebook Politics

Study: Online Social Influence Has the Strongest Effect On Voting Behavior 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-like-what-the-people-I-talk-to-like dept.
sciencehabit writes "Brace yourself for a tidal wave of Facebook campaigning before November's U.S. presidential election. A study of 61 million Facebook users finds that using online social networks to urge people to vote has a much stronger effect on their voting behavior than spamming them with information via television ads or phone calls."
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Study: Online Social Influence Has the Strongest Effect On Voting Behavior

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  • For now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @08:40PM (#41319065)

    That's only because a lot of people haven't yet become as adept at ignoring the adds on social media platforms as they already are on TV and print mediums. This noted effectiveness will wear off as more and more people get used to ignoring a new form of advertising.

    • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @08:47PM (#41319105)

      You're talking about ads, but your friend might recommend something to you, and if it's someone you know or trust you are a lot more likely to look at it. And that's something that's probably never going to change. Gossiping would go away before that would.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I just heard this shit on KPBS driving home - note the caveat in the summary, voting behavior.

        What it means is that more people are more likely to click buttons online and say they're gonna vote, then they're nowhere to be seen at the polls because they'd rather fuck off on Facebook all day.

        Speaking of free speech, fascist "editor" scum, kindly unban my user account from posting. It's good for a fair and open democracy.

        -- Ethanol-fueled

        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @10:52PM (#41319887) Homepage Journal
          Hmm.....sounds to me like yet another reason not to join Facebook.....
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @11:02PM (#41319929)

          What it means is that more people are more likely to click buttons online and say they're gonna vote, then they're nowhere to be seen at the polls because they'd rather fuck off on Facebook all day.

          No, they checked that in the study. Here's a more complete version from the AP [npr.org] that covers this:

          Fowler and colleagues didn't just take the word of people who clicked the "I voted" button. They checked public voting records in 13 states for that election, and found about 4 percent of those who said they voted hadn't really cast ballots.

          • by skiflyer (716312) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @01:53AM (#41320701)

            Yeah, that's the version I heard when driving home.

            It still seems to me to have a big flaw, namely the assumption of causation. Social networks with messages like this are a self selecting group, how do they know that those with friends who voted aren't just in more politically savvy peer groups?

            Now if they would have randomly lied to people about whether or not their friends had voted I could see some determination of causation, but as it was done I think the above is at least one potential flaw.

    • That's only because a lot of people haven't yet become as adept at ignoring the adds on social media platforms as they already are on TV and print mediums. This noted effectiveness will wear off as more and more people get used to ignoring a new form of advertising.

      You're missing the point here, it will not be ads it'll be your "friends" (ie one of the thousands of people in your social network whom you have never met and can barely distinguish from a week dead chicken).

      So your implied mad-skills at "ad" avoidance are not going to help you.

      Remember in school you learned that peer-pressure is rubbish an you have better things to do with your life than care about what a bunch of lamebrained retards think?

      Well Facebook is peer-pressure on super-steroids - but for som

    • by Nimey (114278)

      It's not advertising that's at issue here. It's peer pressure. It's the retarded email and post forwards that repeat whatever memes Fox News is pushing that day. It's the "LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU LOVE JESUS" pictures.

  • and tomorrow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cultiv8 (1660093) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @08:45PM (#41319099) Homepage
    The (insert latest social/consumption trend here) influences voting behavior more than (insert declining fad here).
    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Not to forget that there is and age related demographic at work here as well. Wrinkly old non-coloured addicted to the idiot box tend to vote a particular way especially the more fear full amongst them. Younger voters more accustomed to the internet tend to vote another way, especially the least fearful amongst them.

      • by Formalin (1945560)

        True, but younger voters also... tend not to vote, period.

        Perhaps a peer pressure can change that, but I wouldn't count on it either.

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          Cannabis laws are changing that double period.

          • by hackula (2596247)
            Yeah right. Young people would hardly bother voting on a "Kill the Young Bill". I like my generation in general, but we have to be the most apathetic in history.
    • Re:and tomorrow (Score:5, Informative)

      by postglock (917809) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @09:54PM (#41319505)
      It's not even a very large effect. From TFA "People who received messages alerting them that their friends had voted were 0.39% more likely to vote than those who received messages with no social information". Get a sample group large enough (61 million users), and you'll find many things to be statistically significant.
      • by Havenwar (867124)

        It seems the latter is meant as a dig at statistics, but if it is you seem to be confused. The problem with statistics isn't that you can find statistical significance in large groups, quite the opposite - that's when statistics actually do work very well. The problem is that if you have a sample group SMALL enough, you're likely to have problems choosing a representative group and won't get an accurate result... Having a .39% difference is actually quite a big thing in a group of 61 million, since it will

        • by postglock (917809)
          It was not meant to be a dig at statistics per se, but more a critique at differentiating between statistical significance and size of the effect. What I meant to imply was that while I agree the effect was significant, the size of the effect was relatively small. Also, I'm not 100% sure what you mean. I agree that having a small sample size results in a non-accurate result (technically a non-precise result). Hence, it results in less statistical significance than large sample sizes. At least for a simple h
          • by Havenwar (867124)

            The size of the effect was some 280000 voters that would otherwise have stayed home, according to the article. While percentually that might not be a large effect over the size of the population, it is definitely a worthwhile difference. Depending on how these people vote and what districts they are in that could potentially have an actual effect on the result of an election. (Granted, I am not very familiar with the us system for elections, but from what I understand the result in individual areas are to s

            • by postglock (917809)

              I'm also not familiar enough with the US elections, but even so, this still seems like a minimal effect to me. Firstly, there is no partisan information gathered, merely the result that *more* people voted. (Presumably this would mean more Democrat votes, but how much? Perhaps no more than 0.1% total??) Secondly, the implication of the article (to me at least) is a more generalised view, that one can influence one's internet friends' habits. If I spent time haranguing my friends about something, I'd hope t

      • by hackula (2596247)

        Get a sample group large enough (61 million users), and you'll find many things to be statistically significant.

        I think you pretty much explained the goal here. Is this meant to detract from statistical methodologies? Small sample size is generally more inaccurate, not the other way around.

        • by postglock (917809)
          Yes, perhaps I phrased my comment poorly. Havenwar also interpreted my post as such (see the other thread/reply). All I meant was to draw attention to the distinction between significance and the size of the effect. With a large sample size, you can find significance, but it might not be a large/important effect.
    • " a much stronger effect on their voting behavior..."

      The effect quoted is a 0.39% increase in number voting. That's it-- an effect of less than half a percent.

      One wonders how bad the "conventional" methods of increasing are, if an effect of 0.39% is "much stronger".

      • by hackula (2596247)
        Half a percent is an enormous effect! Think about it. Both sides have their base in place already. Most people who have not decided already will not vote at all. Polling is inconclusive and this election could go either way. You better believe the campaigns will be fighting over the scraps, however small.
  • by alostpacket (1972110) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @08:53PM (#41319133) Homepage

    Also in the news, a study of H.P. Lovecraft fans showed Cthulhu has the most impact on voting behavior

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Pff. The advantage of television (To the political BSers) is that it's a one-way, unmodifiable medium where you can make a statement without being refuted.
    On the internet you're closer to verification and cross-references that can counter the shallow lies.

    So, who's up for making a browser addon that automatically cross-references online political ads to various fact checking sites?
    Then maybe overlays a nice helpful graph or color to tell you how much BS you're being fed. ..Or just get adblock+ and opt out o

    • by readin (838620) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @11:10PM (#41319959)

      So, who's up for making a browser addon that automatically cross-references online political ads to various fact checking sites?

      But since ad-checking sites have their agenda too, we'd need another app to cross-reference the fact checking sites to fact checking site verfication sites...

      • So, who's up for making a browser addon that automatically cross-references online political ads to various fact checking sites?

        But since ad-checking sites have their agenda too, we'd need another app to cross-reference the fact checking sites to fact checking site verfication sites...

        I think some roman said it best:

        Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Really? I tend to block updates from everyone who posts a strong political opinion until about Thanksgiving, on election years.. and I use AdBlock plus.. Hit me up with that fail sign

  • Also this seems the article may be pushing the conclusions a bit to far. If my online "friend" votes and it motivates me to vote it doesn't necessarily translate to me voting for the guy he voted for. If there is a strong correlation between online friends and their party affiliations then it may make sense. But I think we try to keep our party preference away from friends - its easy to lose one or the other.
    • Also this seems the article may be pushing the conclusions a bit to far. If my online "friend" votes and it motivates me to vote it doesn't necessarily translate to me voting for the guy he voted for. If there is a strong correlation between online friends and their party affiliations then it may make sense. But I think we try to keep our party preference away from friends - its easy to lose one or the other.

      Well who needs research conducted on a vast group of people when you've got a personal anecdote about how you think you're motivated?

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        I don't need the research, but I need the activity it prompts. With this and Zuckerberg's html5 rantings, perhaps my Facebook stock will go up enough that I can finally unload it.

      • Ha ha. Probably bias - agreed. If I'm for A and my "friend" touts that he's voting for B - I'd get my lazy ass off the couch just to even the score (and the get the world back to normal)
    • by hackula (2596247)

      If there is a strong correlation between online friends and their party affiliations then it may make sense.

      Would this not be expected. Predicting party affiliation by who someone interacts with is pretty reliable (not 100%, obviously, but definitely high enough to be relevant).

      • To me at least it appears that when choosing friends, party affliction would be way down on the check list.
        • by hackula (2596247)
          You are correct, however, when choosing party affiliation friends/family affiliation is at the top of the list for most people.
  • by gubon13 (2695335) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @09:35PM (#41319411)
    Seriously though, doesn't everyone have a DVR?
  • hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @09:42PM (#41319453)

    It could be that a facebook page doesn't interrupt you during dinner, or your favorite movie, or during sex.

    That it doesn't use a melodramatic voice actor to sound all serious about the $TotallyEvilShit that $OtherCandidate does, and basically conflate that not voting for $EndorsedCandidate is a vote for raping babies with wood rasps.

    Seriously. People are losing patience with the mud slinging. A facebook page can be ignored. It doesn't shove itself in your face. It doesn't scream. It doesn't rant. It doesn't turn the volume up 30 additional decibels to blast your brains out.

    Given the substantially fewer sets of clear and present BADs being injected, is it any wonder that people would react more favorably to them?

    Current TV ads are like the $PoliticalParty edit wars on Wikipedia for $CandidateHistory. Look, the ministry of truth bullshit with your truthiness gets old. Say your bit, the shut the fuck up already. If I want to know about your party or your candidate, let me do so on my own. Don't try to control my access to information. Don't try to poison that well. If you do, you expose yourself as dishonest shysters, and I will only want you to go away and stop bothering me.

    I suspect many other americans feel the same way.

    Grow the fuck up, grow a pair, own up, and let us make up our own damn minds.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It could be that a facebook page doesn't interrupt you during dinner, or your favorite movie, or during sex.

      ...You haven't met my wife, have you?

    • by sohmc (595388)

      As MUCH as I agree with you, this simply isn't the case for the majority of the voting populous. Even very smart and educated people care more about whether you have a "D" or a "R" attached to your name than they care to admit. Our voting system is better than most other nations, but has major faults that it relies on the lowest common denominator and the system REWARDS candidates that can pander the best.

      I have personally often thought about running a purely honest campaign where everything would be cite

    • by twmcneil (942300)

      or during sex

      Dude, this is /.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Methinks Facebook may have found a new revenue stream.

  • Are they saying that ads on social networks are more effective than other net ads and offline ads? Or that social networks, writ large, are more influential than advertisements?

    Because I suspect that social networks are just a medium; the bit that's effective is the peer groups. People, in other words, are highly influence by those they choose to socialize with. Something which is true online and off.

  • by gweihir (88907)

    a) They asked facebook-users. Nobody with any real life is one of them.
    b) Nobody pays attention to television anymore, and phone calls are just an insult.

  • This just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jxander (2605655) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @10:02PM (#41319569)

    Breaking news: Facebook users find Facebook to be the most effective means of influencing them.

    Film at 11

  • by mdfst13 (664665) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @10:03PM (#41319571)

    The article doesn't actually describe a test of online influence vs. offline influence. What it describes is a contrast between direct appeals from friends, using pictures, and a more abstract Facebook system. In other words, they are simply saying that being told that your friends voted with a picture of said friends was more effective than a text message or no message at all. It's a reasonably robust study of what it does, but it's a long way from the grandiose claims of the title.

    It's possible that they are contrasting this with other studies (that they don't mention). Unfortunately, since they don't include descriptions of those studies, we can't know if they are the equivalent of this study. Do they include the many partisan appeals to vote for a candidate? Do they adjust for the tune out effect of the partisan appeals hiding the non-partisan appeals? Do they adjust for the differences between the Facebook audience and the other audiences? For example, people with land lines tend to be older than average while Facebook users tend to be younger than average. Older people vote more reliably, so a pure get out the vote effort will tend to have less effect on them (it can't make people who already vote vote more).

    All this really says is that pictures are more effective than text at arousing interest. This may simply mean that the pictures make the notice bigger and thus more likely to catch people's attention.

  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @10:13PM (#41319615) Journal

    Quoth TFA:

    People who received messages alerting them that their friends had voted were 0.39% more likely to vote than those who received messages with no social information. That translates to an additional 282,000 votes cast,

    With elections being as tight as they have been in the last 15 years, and with the coming presidential election looking every bit as tight, this could be enough to make a significant difference.

    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      If that's the case, it makes me wonder about the potential for a write-in election campaign, like the anonymous scientology demonstrations.

      If enough of the popular votes in high profile states get drowned that way, the results could be interesting, and it would be the most influential hack that a goup like thiers would ever have done.

      Imagine, hacking an election, by organized voter DDoS.

    • With elections being as tight as they have been in the last 15 years, and with the coming presidential election looking every bit as tight, this could be enough to make a significant difference.

      Please step this way sir, the Automated Kiddie-Porn Thought Police Scanner [slashdot.org] has detected a violation and we need to make further enquiries.

  • ...so in a bid to influence other voters through an online medium:

    DON'T VOTE FOR A DICKHEAD!

    If everyone takes notice of this we could fix the political system pretty quickly.
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @10:29PM (#41319721)
    Why do we care what affects voting habits when we have no real choice in who to vote for in the first place? Will the outcome of this falls election really have any bearing on what laws are passed, which countries we invade, what services we have or how much we're taxed? No.
  • Hi,

    Sorry, but "social media", et al? Yet another venue for manipulation, especially Facebook.

    Consider the latter: It's primary focus is social. This is by no means a bad thing: Human beings are social creatures, and Facebook is a great place for social interaction [1].

    However, social interaction doesn't necessarily translate to "informed political awareness" [2].

    My impression is this: Yes, the campaign managers are savvy about social networking, yes, they will use this, and, given the nature of social n
  • Facebook users tend to be young. Younger members of the electorate are more easily influenced, period. This is an oversimplification, sure, but it's likely to be the primary reason.
  • ...the Zoidberg of online social influence?
  • I will NOT be "influenced".

    I do not "book my face".

    I am not one of the borg.
  • and here I was just thinking it was one of the reasons I left facebook (again...).
  • So ... 60.7 million out of the 61 million would ignore the ads ??? really impressive eh?

    and this is the impressionable facebook demographic
    and no indication that this could or would impact voting intentions either

    This is just useless facebook marketing material !!!!

  • The more spent on Facebook ads, the less spent elsewhere.

    Waste the time of the people who are wasting their time by using facebook in the first place.

    Of course the biggest reason why I support facebook ads, is the fact I deleted my facebook account over 2 years ago.

  • by bryanp (160522) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @06:35AM (#41321739)

    This is the only way I'm going to get through the next couple of months without strangling some of my FB friends and acquaintances:

    http://lifehacker.com/5940319/how-to-block-annoying-political-posts-on-facebook [lifehacker.com]

    Short version: browser add on that lets you (among other things) filter FB to not show you posts containing words like Romney and Obama.

  • Others have pointed out reasons to doubt the significance of this study. I noticed one thing which raises questions about the effectiveness of Facebook political ads. The study found that people who got messages from their friends saying that those friends had voted were more likely to vote. No where did it discover if the message recipients were any more likely to vote the same as their friends. Nor did it say whether they actually did vote the same as their friends. Perhaps this effect was the result of p
  • The conclusion is pure conjecture. There is no time dimension in their analysis. This shows that people who saw Facebook pictures of friends who voted are slightly more likely to admit that they also voted. To prove that the Facebook pictures actually influenced whether people voted the study would have to know the time people saw the Facebook message AND the time they voted to know whether the person voted before or after seeing the message. They couldn't have gotten that information from voting rolls.

    Int

  • After all, the guy calling me on the phone, or shouting at me through the idiot box is obviously a paid shill. The person telling me about his favorite candidate on Facebook is a Friend (tm) and I trust him completely. Even if I don't know him IRL.

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