In the 2016 election, politics and social media are inextricably intertwined… and not always for the better.
We follow candidates on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat – and watch as they duke it out in real time. We share articles and videos on our profiles, and get into heated debates with friends and family. We isolate ourselves in “echo chambers” of like-minded people who share similar political beliefs. And we feel real emotional stress and anxiety, especially with our news feeds constantly updating with election-related content.
But amid all the negative news about the election and social media, there is a bright spot. Recent studies have shown that a simple Facebook reminder significantly increased voter registration across the country.
The reminder – which said “Are you registered to vote? Register now to make sure you have a voice in the election.” – ran for four days in September, targeting users who would be of voting age on Election Day. It displayed next to two links: one to a federal directory of state voter registration websites, and one to let users share that they had registered.
According to the New York Times, at least nine secretaries of state have said the Facebook voter registration reminder helped increase sign-ups. Data from nine other states showed that registrations rose dramatically on the first day of the campaign compared with the day before. Here are a few highlights:
- In California, 123,279 people registered to vote or updated their registrations on the first day of the Facebook reminder campaign (the fourth-highest daily total in the history of the state’s online registration site)
- In Connecticut, 14,883 people registered to vote in the first three days of the campaign (a more than 12-fold increase over the same period a week earlier)
- Minnesota broke its record for the most online voter registrations in a single week
- Indiana recorded its third-highest daily online registration total ever
- The secretaries of state in Colorado, Kentucky, Nebraska and West Virginia credited Facebook, at least in part, for increasing voter registration
So while it has been a long and grueling election, social media has been a positive catalyst for civic engagement. Get out and vote on November 8!