How Effective Is Social Capital in Spreading Political Ideas? Evidence from ‘Facebook Likes’ in the 2015 Queensland and 2017 Western Australian State Elections
30 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2018
Date Written: January 10, 2018
How effective are new forms of social capital, such as social media, in spreading political ideas? We use Facebook page ‘likes’ as a measure of social capital, and votes received as a measure of performance, to examine the effectiveness of social capital in disseminating political ideas. To do so, we use data from two state elections in Australia - the 2015 general election in Queensland and the 2017 general election in Western Australia. Our main results suggest that for every additional one percentage point district share of Facebook likes that a candidate has, they receive an additional 0.15 percentage point district vote share. This result is robust to alternative ways of measuring Facebook likes and votes received and a range of different specifications. Using social media data, we also correctly predict the outcome of 70.95 percent of the seats in both elections. We show that Facebook likes represent a better predictor of election outcomes than either ratings of candidates’ beauty or competency.
Keywords: Elections, Facebook, Social Capital, Social Media, Forecast, Prediction
JEL Classification: D72
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