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Social Networking Influencing Our Actions and Voting Habits

While plenty of things are really catchy and influential (take the superhit Gangnam Style for example), Facebook messages are not necessarily what comes to mind first. However, political scientists are University of California, San Diego have uncovered that a single Facebook message that was spread during the 2010 midterm elections drove more than some 340,000 voters to the polls. The research had 2 control groups and also a test group. The first control group did not see anything special on Election Day, the second control group saw a banner on top of their News Feed that encouraged them to vote, and the test group saw a ¬†banner that encouraged them to vote¬†as well as photos of friends who had already voted. As it turns out, the subtle social encouragement encouraged Jane Doe to vote–but not just her. Friends of Jane and friends of friends of Jane also tended to vote, showing that the social pressure extended to 2 degrees of separation.

I found this article quite interesting because of its relation to networks. A single person (or in this case a few) who has a lot of friends may have an enormous affect on not just their friends but friends of friends in their voting habits. I always thought that Facebook ads were relatively ineffective, but this new discovery proves otherwise. While 340,000 votes is unlikely to swing any races, it still has potential to change races in states that are down to the line. The advent of social networks like Facebook, which constantly keeps people in contact and connected, certainly helps to influence the actions of others based on what their friends see.




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