Think you know who you'll be voting for in the next presidential election? If you're a Facebook user, a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Political Science suggests your online activity might sway your opinion by the time you cast your ballot.
According to the study, favorable comments positively influence Facebook users' own views, while unfavorable remarks seem to have a negative effect—even when the users are not "friends" with each other.
University of Delaware researchers created a Facebook page for a fictitious candidate and populated it with general nonpartisan information. A random group of people from Delaware where then asked to review the candidate's page and rate him in an online survey. Some participants saw a page with comments supporting the fictitious candidate; others saw a page with comments that challenged the candidate's views.
The findings showed that positive comments or "likes" correlated with a more favorable perception of the candidate. Seeing negative comments, on the other hand, led participants to formulate an unfavorable opinion. Whether the candidate responded to the comments did not alter perceptions.
"This showed that people trust comments from their peers more than they trust self-generated comments from the candidate," Paul R. Brewer, professor of communication and of political science and international relations at the university, said in a statement. "It's the idea that what other people say about you is genuine, perhaps unlike what you say about yourself. So comments from some random person on the Internet do shape citizens' perceptions."