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Britain has had enough of experts? Social networks and the Brexit referendum

Giacomo De Luca (), Thilo Rene Huning and Paulo Santos Monteiro ()

Discussion Papers from Department of Economics, University of York

Abstract: We investigate the impact of social media on the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom membership of the European Union. We leverage 18 million geo-located Twitter messages originating from the UK in the weeks before the referendum. Using electoral wards as unit of observation, we explore how exogenous variation in Twitter exposure affected the vote share in favor of leaving the EU. Our estimates suggest that in electoral wards less exposed to Twitter the percentage who voted to leave the EU was greater. This is confirmed across several specifications and approaches, including two very different IV identification strategies to address the non-randomness of Twitter usage. To interpret our findings, we propose a model of how bounded rational voters learn in social media networks vulnerable to fake news, and we validate the theoretical framework by estimating how Remain and Leave tweets propagated differently on Twitter in the two months leading to the EU referendum.

Keywords: Fake News; Social Networks; Social Media; Brexit (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 D83 L82 L86 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-eur, nep-int, nep-net and nep-soc
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:yor:yorken:21/01

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