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Can Hearts Change Minds? Social media Endorsements and Policy Preferences

Pierluigi Conzo (), Andrea Gallice (), Juan Morales (), Margaret Samahita and Laura K. Taylor

No 641, Carlo Alberto Notebooks from Collegio Carlo Alberto

Abstract: We investigate the effect of social media endorsements (likes, retweets, shares) on individuals’ policy preferences. In two online controlled experiments (N=1,384), we exposed participants to non-neutral policy messages about the COVID-19 pandemic (emphasizing either public health or economic activity as a policy priority) while varying the level of endorsements of these messages. Our experimental treatment significantly shifted the policy views of active social media users by about 0.12 standard deviations. The treatment effect for these users is heterogeneous depending on their pre-existing views. Specifically, message endorsements reinforce pre-existing attitudes, thereby increasing opinion polarization. The effect appears concentrated on a minority of individuals who correctly answered a factual manipulation check regarding the endorsement metrics. This evidence suggests that though only a fraction of individuals pay conscious attention to these metrics, they may be easily influenced by these social cues.

Keywords: social media; social conformity; political polarization; COVID-19. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D83 L82 L86 O33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: pages 29
Date: 2021
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-exp and nep-hea
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Working Paper: Can ?s Change Minds? Social Media Endorsements and Policy Preferences (2021) Downloads
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