Juan S. Morales (Collegio Carlo Alberto)
12 October 2020 @ 12:45 - 13:45
“Social Media and the Formation of Policy Preferences”
Abstract: We investigate the effect of social media on individuals’ policy preferences. In particular, we study the role of endorsements, a central feature of social media, as evinced by common metrics of engagement: likes, retweets, and shares. Can perceived support of social media messages affect how policy views are formed? To answer this question, we conducted two online controlled experiments with human subjects in Ireland, Italy and the U.S. (N=2,124) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its policy trade-offs (public health vs. economic activity). Our results reveal that very active social media users, who represent between one third and one fifth of the population, are influenced by popularity cues. The analysis also suggests that these commonly used endorsement metrics may be one mechanism through which social media increases polarization.