How Online Social Networks Amplify Political Rhetoric and Engage the Public

Solomon Messing
Social scientist, Data Science Team

This talk will show how online social networks drive attention and political engagement, acting as a medium that can cause elite messages to be even more influential. Using a field experiment involving over a million participants, we examine how socially shared political messages coalesce to affect voter turnout and policy preferences. We randomly assign individuals to see more political news and opinion content that their friends share on Facebook during the 72 days leading up to the 2012 election. We then estimate the conditional effects of exposure on reported turnout and policy preferences. Encountering socially shared content increases reported turnout and strengthens policy preferences among non-partisan identifiers.

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