Science  14 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6100, pp. 1278

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  1. Facebook Friends Influence Voting

    There's no doubt that our Facebook friends influence how we spend our time on the Internet. But how much does social media influence our real-world behaviors once we step away from the computer? A lot, according to an experiment performed on 60 million Facebook users.

    Less than 40% of eligible U.S. voters usually take part in congressional elections. As a public service in 2010, Facebook rolled out a nonpartisan “get out the vote” campaign during the 2010 congressional elections that appeared on every user's newsfeed. A team led by political scientist Robert Bond at the University of California, San Diego, turned that campaign into a massive controlled experiment. Sixty million people who logged in to Facebook on a single day were shown a message that encouraged them to vote, including links to local polling stations and a clickable “I Voted” button. Some messages also included pictures of Facebook friends who had already voted. Researchers then compared the number of people reporting on Facebook that they voted with official voting rolls after the election.

    People who received messages alerting them that their friends had voted were 0.39% more likely to vote than those who received messages with no social information. That translates to an additional 282,000 votes cast, the team reports online on 12 September in Nature.

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