Facebook + Peer Pressure = Voting

Researchers are using Facebook. Not just for posting pictures and playing Farmville though. They’re using the social networking giant for social experiments. And in a very interesting study they discovered that a single Facebook message can encourage Americans to vote. The experiment in question was on a congressional election day in 2010. On that day, sixty million American Facebook users received a non-partisan message that encouraged them to go vote. For some of the users, it showed pictures of their friends who voted, for others, it did not. The people who saw that their friends had gone to the polls were 0.39% more likely to go vote. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but that translated into roughly 340,000 more votes. Considering how many close elections the U.S. has (think Florida in 2000) those extra votes can make a difference. This experiment has other useful applications as well. New York University academic Sinan Aral says,

“But such interventions also have the potential to promote positive social changes, such as increasing the rate of HIV testing, reducing violence, improving adherence to exercise, or increasing political mobilisation and awareness,”

For more details on the study, click here.