Speed Reads

2014 midterms

Facebook's 'I'm a Voter' widget could actually encourage on-the-fence voters to cast a ballot

If you logged onto Facebook today — and the stats show you probably have — you've likely noticed a widget at the top of your news feed notifying you that it's Election Day and urging you to tell your friends that you've voted. That's not just Facebook encouraging your standard social media oversharing — data shows that people who know their friends have voted are actually more likely to cast a ballot themselves.

You see, while the election widget might be new to you, back in 2010 Facebook collaborated with researchers to launch a similar iteration of its Megaphone app (the official name for the "I'm a Voter" plug-in) to an experimental group of voters. Compared to the control group (potential voters who did not see the banner) Megaphone-receiving users were 0.39 percent more likely to vote.

That might not seem like much of a difference, but in reality that led to the direct mobilization of 60,000 voters, the study concluded, with roughly 280,000 more as the result of the "ripple effect." Considering how close some of today's races are — and how indifferent the voters are — Facebook's social media guilt trip could be an important player in the results.