Voting Contagion: Modeling and Analysis of a Century of U.S. Presidential Elections

Braha D, de Aguiar MAM (2017) Voting contagion: Modeling and analysis of a century of U.S. presidential elections. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177970. doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0177970

30 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2018

See all articles by Dan Braha

Dan Braha

New England Complex Systems Institute

Marcus A. M. de Aguiar

Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP)

Date Written: May 18, 2017

Abstract

Social influence plays an important role in human behavior and decisions. Sources of influence can be divided as external, which are independent of social context, or as originating from peers, such as family and friends. An important question is how to disentangle the social contagion by peers from external influences. While a variety of experimental and observational studies provided insight into this problem, identifying the extent of contagion based on large-scale observational data with an unknown network structure remains largely unexplored. By bridging the gap between the large-scale complex systems perspective of collective human dynamics and the detailed approach of social sciences, we present a parsimonious model of social influence, and apply it to a central topic in political science--elections and voting behavior. We provide an analytical expression of the county vote-share distribution, which is in excellent agreement with almost a century of observed U.S. presidential election data. Analyzing the social influence topography over this period reveals an abrupt phase transition from low to high levels of social contagion, and robust differences among regions. These results suggest that social contagion effects are becoming more instrumental in shaping large-scale collective political behavior, with implications on democratic electoral processes and policies.

Keywords: Elections, Voting Behavior, Social Influence, Collective Human Behavior, Social Dynamics, Social Physics, Complex Systems, Mathematical Modelling in Political Science, United States

Suggested Citation

Braha, Dan and de Aguiar, Marcus A. M., Voting Contagion: Modeling and Analysis of a Century of U.S. Presidential Elections (May 18, 2017). Braha D, de Aguiar MAM (2017) Voting contagion: Modeling and analysis of a century of U.S. presidential elections. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177970. doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0177970, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3095038

Dan Braha (Contact Author)

New England Complex Systems Institute ( email )

277 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Marcus A. M. De Aguiar

Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) ( email )

Cidade Universitária Zeferino Vaz - Barão
Geraldo
Campinas - SP, 13083-970
Brazil

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