Social Media and Political Contributions: The Impact of New Technology on Political Competition

Management Science, forthcoming

77 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2016 Last revised: 18 May 2020

See all articles by Maria Petrova

Maria Petrova

Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (Barcelona GSE)

Ananya Sen

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Pinar Yildirim

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 14, 2020

Abstract

Political campaigns are among the most sophisticated marketing exercises in the United States. As part of their marketing communication strategy, an increasing number of politicians adopt social media to inform their constituencies. This study documents the returns from adopting a new technology, namely Twitter, for politicians running for Congress by focusing on the change in campaign contributions received. We compare weekly donations received just before and just after a politician opens a Twitter account in regions with high and low levels of Twitter penetration, controlling for politician-month fixed effects. Specifically, over the course of a political campaign, we estimate that the differential effect of opening a Twitter account in regions with high vs low levels of Twitter penetration amounts to an increase of 0.7-2% in donations for all politicians and 1-3.1% for new politicians, who were never elected to the Congress before. In contrast, the effect of joining Twitter for experienced politicians remains negligibly small. We find some evidence consistent with the explanation that the effect is driven by new information about the candidates, e.g., the effect is primarily driven by new donors rather than past donors, by candidates without Facebook accounts and tweeting more informatively. Overall, our findings imply that social media can intensify political competition by lowering costs of disseminating information for new entrants to their constituents and thus may reduce the barriers to enter politics.

Keywords: social media, Twitter, political donations, elections, political candidates

JEL Classification: D72, M2, M3

Suggested Citation

Petrova, Maria and Sen, Ananya and Yildirim, Pinar, Social Media and Political Contributions: The Impact of New Technology on Political Competition (May 14, 2020). Management Science, forthcoming . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2836323 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2836323

Maria Petrova

Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (Barcelona GSE) ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, Barcelona 08005
Spain

Ananya Sen

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

4800 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA Pittsburgh 15213-3890
United States

Pinar Yildirim (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

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