London:Peer pressure applied through social networking site Facebook can significantly boost the number ofpeople who vote in an election, a new study has claimed.
Researchers from the University of California found aboutone third of a million more people showed up at the ballot boxin the 2010 US Congressional elections because of a singleFacebook message on the day.
They said the experiment confirms that peer pressure helpsget out the vote and demonstrates that on-line social networkscan affect important real-world behaviour, ‘The Telegraph’reported.
“Our study suggests that social influence may be the bestway to increase voter turnout. Just as importantly, we showthat what happens on-line matters a lot for the real world,”lead author James Fowler said.
For the study, more than 60 million people on Facebook sawa social, non-partisan “get out the vote” message at the topof their news feeds on November 2nd, 2010.
The message featured a reminder that “Today is ElectionDay”; a clickable “I Voted” button; a link to local pollingplaces; a counter displaying how many Facebook users hadalready reported voting; and up to six profile pictures of
users’ own Facebook friends who had reported voting.
About 600,000 people, or one per cent, were randomlyassigned to see a modified “informational message,” identicalin all respects to the social message except for pictures offriends.
An additional 600,000 served as the control group andreceived no Election Day message from Facebook at all.Fowler and his colleagues then compared the behaviour ofrecipients of the social message.
Users who had received the social message were more likelythan the others both to look for a polling place and to clickon the “I Voted” button.To estimate how many people actually voted, the team usedpublicly available voting records.
“Social influence made all the difference in politicalmobilisation,” Fowler said.
The researchers estimate that the direct effect of theFacebook social message on users who saw it generated anadditional 60,000 votes in 2010.
But the effects of the social network – of socialcontagion among friends – they say, yielded another 280,000more, for a total of 340,000.”The main driver of behaviour change is not the message -it’s the vast social network,” Fowler added.The findings were published in the journal ‘Nature’.