A new Harvard University study suggests that Facebook is the place to woo younger voters into political action – at least in the US.
Researchers questioned more than 3,000 Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29, and found that a significant proportion of them had used Facebook to carry out political activities – such as ‘liking’ a political candidate’s Page, or advocating for a political position.
30% of participants had used Facebook to ‘like’ a political issue, 24% had used it to ‘like’ a political candidate, and 19% had used it to advocate for a political position. Only online petitions proved more popular than Facebook-related activities, with 36% of survey respondents reporting signing a petition online.
Twitter had to settle for fifth place – just 16% had used the microblogging platform to advocate for a political position.
What’s more, research from ShareThis suggests a preference for Facebook politics isn’t only a millennial trend. Its study looked at US Internet users as a whole, and found that 71% preferred using Facebook to share content about the country’s midterm elections. Twitter faltered at just 15%.
eMarketer, which reported the results of the research, suggested that it was up to politicians to whip the electorate into action – as users tend to take a responsive, rather than pro-active approach to political activity:
Respondents generally took a passive approach when participating in politics online, as they weren’t nearly as likely to contribute to online discussions outside of Facebook or take action by writing an email or letter supporting a political position or opinion.
After fraught campaigns and an unexpected Conservative victory this morning, we’ve seen three of the UK’s leading politicians – Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage – hand in their resignation papers. Perhaps next time they should focus on Facebook more as a means to win over the crucial younger vote?
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