From Posting to Voting: The Effects of Political Competition on Online Political Engagement
Political Science Research and Methods (Forthcoming)
30 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2013 Last revised: 27 Jan 2015
Date Written: 2015
How does living in a battleground state during a presidential election affect an individual's political engagement? We utilize a unique collection of 113 million status updates on Facebook to answer this persistent question in the study of political behavior by comparing users’ political discussion during the 2008 presidential election in politically competitive versus uncompetitive states. "Battleground" state users are significantly more likely to discuss politics in the campaign season than are "blackout" state users, and posting a political status update --- a form of day-to-day engagement with politics --- affects a person’s self-reported voter turnout, mediating approximately 20% of the relationship between exposure to political competition and turnout. While our results can only be generalized to the tens of millions of Facebook users and not the entire American voting age population, this paper is one of the first efforts to use the massive quantity of data generated through online social media sites to explain the microfoundations of how people think, feel, and act on a daily basis in response to their political environment.
Keywords: Facebook, emotion, voting, electoral competition, battleground states
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