A study released today by scientific journal, Nature, shows evidence that social networks can affect the turnout of voters at the polls. The study cites a test performed during the 2010 Congressional election on a sampling of Facebook users that showed users may be more inclined to vote when they saw that their friends (or friends of friends) had voted.
The test provided users with an election day reminder accompanied by photos and names of friends who had voted. By including an “I voted” button with the reminder, the test administrators, from Facebook and the University of California, San Diego, were able to measure what influence friends had on a users’ decision to vote.
The inclusion of a control group and the examination of the public voter rolls helped researchers realize that an additional 60,000 votes nationwide were inspired by voting friends and 280,000 votes were influenced by friends of friends who had voted. They call this “friends of friends” voting the “social contagion” effect. They also found that 4% of users had lied about casting their vote.
Read more on the study in The New York Times’ analysis.