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

87 Pages Posted: 31 May 2021 Last revised: 5 Jun 2021

See all articles by Thomas Fujiwara

Thomas Fujiwara

Princeton University

Karsten Müller

Princeton University

Carlo Schwarz

Bocconi University - Department of Economics

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Date Written: May 2021

Abstract

We study how social media affects election outcomes in the United States. We use variation in the number of Twitter users across counties induced by early adopters at the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, a key event in Twitter's rise to popularity. We show that this variation is unrelated to observable county characteristics and electoral outcomes before the launch of Twitter. Our results indicate that Twitter lowered the Republican vote share in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, but had limited effects on Congress elections and previous presidential elections. Evidence from survey data, primary elections, and a text analysis of millions of tweets suggests that Twitter's relatively liberal content may have persuaded voters with moderate views to vote against Donald Trump.

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Suggested Citation

Fujiwara, Thomas and Müller, Karsten and Schwarz, Carlo, The Effect of Social Media on Elections: Evidence from the United States (May 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w28849, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3856816

Thomas Fujiwara (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

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Karsten Müller

Princeton University

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Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

Carlo Schwarz

Bocconi University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Milan, 20136
Italy

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