Facebook Massively Influenced Voter Registration Numbers

September 30, 2016

1:30 pm

Thinkpieces on the immense power of Facebook, the Galactus of social media networks, are common enough. But after last week, those thinkpieces will all have an extra statistic on their side: Facebook’s massive influence on America’s voting registration.

Despite Facebook’s interest in remaining genuinely apolitical (after all, they want to appeal to everyone, rather than just one half of America), they were able to get behind a simple message of patriotism, voting itself. And when they recommended that their 1.7 billion monthly active users (well, the American slice of that number) consider voting, they saw results. In some states, registration jumped 2,225 percent.

The Study

A study from the Center for Election Innovation and Research examined how social media has affected registration numbers. From the study:

“On Friday, September 23rd, Facebook used their megaphone feature to put a banner on the top of American users’ feeds directing them to check their voter registration status or get registered to vote. The banner sent users to www.vote.gov and links people directly to their state’s main voter registration page; in 32 states and DC, that means online voter registration!

Data from the states demonstrates that these efforts are having a tremendous impact.”

While the raw data from 16 affected states was presented in the Center’s article on the subject, the bar chart here best represented the massive impact of Facebook’s September 23rd push:

What It Means

The same study revealed that Google’s voter registration doodle, posted on September 27th, also impacted many states, boosting registration even more in California, Minnesota, Maryland, and Oregon. One takeaway: social media is a great motivator.

But Facebook’s influence was still larger than even Google. And in the political area in particular, Facebook’s ability to magnify and exploit political agendas has already been well documented. Political pages can make hundreds of thousands per election, as we’ve covered earlier:

“A political meme page gets hundreds of thousands or sometimes millions of followers, and then pushes out links to sleazy, ad-packed websites. The page “Make America Great,” operated out of St. Louis by 35-year-old online marketer Adam Nicoloff, earned over $30,000 in revenue this last July, with operating costs of $8,000.”

This election in particular is attracting significant attention from media outlets. Slate, for instance, hired ten political reporters this year, a number up from just two in 2012. The election’s driving plenty of attention, and as the gatekeeper of the internet, Facebook naturally drives the most.

Image: Flickr / lettawren

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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