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Facebook's Look at Which Voters Turned Out Tuesday

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, November 5 2010

As we've discussed, nearly 12 million people clicked Facebook's "I Voted" button on election day Tuesday. The nice thing about being Facebook's in-house data team is that you get to dig through those number and pull out some insights into correlations between those votes and what the clickers also say about themselves on their Facebook profiles. And that's what they've done. There are a healthy number of caveats to keep in mind -- these are people who have self-selected not only to register to their vote, but to be on Facebook in the first place -- and the Facebook number crunchers are aware of them. Still, there's some fun and even education in looking at what we can know about how Facebook America votes.

Including, for example, that Republicans said they'd voted more than their Democratic counterparts on Facebook did, especially amongst older folk:

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Facebook's analysis:

The figure above shows the proportion of users in each age bucket who said they voted as a fraction of the people who came to the site yesterday, broken down by political party. If you’re wondering if youth today are apathetic about voting, this graph is striking proof of this fact. The height of voter turnout peaks at 65 years of age, while the lowest turnout occurs at 18 years of age. In fact, a 65 year old is almost 3 times as likely to vote as a younger counterpart.  This tracks results collected from traditional exit polls, which also show a 30% turnout gap between younger voters and older voters.  Furthermore, while Democrats were able to mobilize as many young voters as Republicans, Republicans were far more successful at mobilizing older voters.

(That "as a fraction of the people who came to the site yesterday" distinction jumps out, and it's not clear at first glance what that's used as the population to compare the numbers against. We'll see if we can find out more.)

Another finding, and one that sheds some light on some of the social tools were seeing on online vote reporting, from Organizing for America's "Commit to Vote" Facebook app to Foursquare's "I Voted" badge. In short, you're more likely to vote if your friends vote:

Yes, yes, correlation or causation? The Facebookers are aware. Here's their analysis:

On our election-day display we showed users which of their friends had voted; but how much effect could this have on voter turnout? Could people see their friends voting and go out to do the same? The above plot shows the probability that a person voted yesterday as a function of the fraction of their friends who had voted. As more and more of your friends vote, not surprisingly, you are more likely to vote. Unfortunately, we cannot tell whether this effect is because of social influence, or if voting practice is simply clustered at a local level, but the fact that voting behavior is shared between friends is quite clear.

Intriguing stuff, made possible by the fact that we've chosen to tell Facebook a great deal about ourselves. A simple click on a voting button unlocks all sorts of possibilities when its connected up with the rest of our personal data. If you're into this sort of thing, do dig into the Facebook post on the topic. There's even some great stuff on how likely Giants fans and Rangers fans were to vote in the wake of their World Series final, and the answer might surprise you.

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