Facebook hopes ‘I’m a voter’ button will positively impact turnout (Wired UK)


Facebook has announced today that it will once again be rolling out its “I’m a voter” button in time for this Thursday’s General Election.

Later this week, the button will appear in the News Feeds of everyone in the UK who is eligible to vote. Users will be able to click the button to show that they have voted, and can share that information with their friends without needing to specify who they have voted for.

The button has caused some controversy in the past due to the part it played in studies that tested whether Facebook could positively influence voter turnout. The studies concluded that the social network did possess this power, and this is now a point of pride for Facebook, but the process for determining this fact has been widely criticised.

One study, published in Nature in 2012, involved Facebook tweaking News Feeds of certain users and therefore attempting to manipulate their behaviour. Now Facebook will be attempting to show the button to every single British adult user eligible to vote, rather than just certain subsections. The voter button has now been used during the last three US elections, the European Parliament election, the Scottish referendum and in India. A total of 4.3 million Indian citizens broadcast the fact they had voted on Facebook and 31 million people in the country saw posts telling them someone they knew had voted.

Facebook has also revealed that the most-discussed election topic on the social network has now shifted from health to the economy. Between the beginning of January and the beginning of May there were 4.5 million interactions related to the economy from 1.4 million people. Political commentators have echoed the sentiment of Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville since he first uttered his seminal words, but it looks so far like whatever direction a campaign seems to drift in it really is all about the economy, stupid.

Europe and immigration is now the second most-talked about topic in the country, perhaps reflecting the most divisive debates and figures that have occupied the spotlight throughout this campaign. Health is now the third most popular topic to discuss on Facebook, but crucially, it seems to be a more popular topic in marginal seats than nationally — and it is those seats that will really make the difference come polling day.

The social network is keen for the phrase “conversational election” to catch on, relating to how the campaigns and discussions are playing across its own platform. Another way it is trying to get the country talking is by lighting up the London Eye every night as if it were a pie chart, so as to represent how feeling was divided between parties on Facebook every day in the lead up to the election.

Twitter is also hoping to have an impact on voter turnout, and has teamed up with the Electoral Commission in order to try and encourage people — and in particular young people — to head to the polls on 7 May. Messages were shown in people’s Twitter feeds reminding them about the deadline for registering to vote and although the social network has not conducted studies on its impact like Facebook, it does know that people learn about and engage with politics on the platform.

Voter registration has been mammoth this year, with a record-breaking final push in the hours before the deadline hit. Whether this will translate to higher voter turnout is something we won’t know until the polls close on 7 May.

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5 May 2015 | 4:21 pm – Source: wired.co.uk


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