News We Like to Share: How News Sharing on Social Networks Influences Voting Outcomes
48 Pages Posted: 24 May 2017 Last revised: 23 Feb 2019
Date Written: February 21, 2019
We study the relationship between news sharing on social networks and information aggre- gation by voting. Our context-neutral laboratory experimental treatments mimic the features of social networks in the presence of media bias to address concerns that voters getting political news via social media may become more polarized in their voting behavior. Our results suggest that these concerns are warranted: subjects share news that is favorable to their party more often than the unfavorable news and take biased news at face value in their voting decisions, ignoring news sources. At the same time, the welfare implications of social media are driven by the quality of the shared news: with unbiased media, news sharing on social networks raises collective decision making efficiency, but efficiency deteriorates markedly in the presence of me- dia bias despite the theoretical possibility of a moderate bias enabling more informative voting. Poor quality information, including uninformative (“fake”) news, lowers efficiency more than do filter bubbles enabled by social media.
Keywords: News Sharing, Social Networks, Voting, Media Bias, Fake News, Polarization, Filter Bubble, Lab Experiments
JEL Classification: C72, C91, C92, D72, D83, D85
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