The Effect of Social Media on Elections: Evidence from the United States

72 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2020

See all articles by Thomas Fujiwara

Thomas Fujiwara

Princeton University

Karsten Müller

Princeton University

Carlo Schwarz

Bocconi University - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 27, 2020


We study how social media affects election outcomes. We exploit variation in the number of Twitter users across U.S. counties based on early adoption among participants of the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival—a key event in Twitter's rise to popularity. We show that this variation, which remains predictive of Twitter use a decade later, is unrelated to electoral outcomes before the platform's mass adoption. Our results suggest that exposure to Twitter lowered the Republican vote share in the 2016 presidential election but had limited effects on turnout and vote shares in House and Senate races as well as previous presidential elections. Analyzing two sources of survey data indicates the effects are driven by independent and moderate voters. Our results are consistent with the idea that Twitter's relatively liberal content can persuade voters to alter their views.

Keywords: Social media, Twitter, US Election

Suggested Citation

Fujiwara, Thomas and Müller, Karsten and Schwarz, Carlo, The Effect of Social Media on Elections: Evidence from the United States (October 27, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Thomas Fujiwara

Princeton University ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

Karsten Müller

Princeton University

Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building
Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

Carlo Schwarz (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Economics ( email )

Via Gobbi 5
Milan, 20136

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