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Can Hearts Change Minds? Social media Endorsements and Policy Preferences

Author

Listed:
  • Pierluigi Conzo
  • Andrea Gallice
  • Juan S. Morales
  • Margaret Samahita
  • Laura K. Taylor

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierluigi Conzo & Andrea Gallice & Juan S. Morales & Margaret Samahita & Laura K. Taylor, 2021. "Can Hearts Change Minds? Social media Endorsements and Policy Preferences," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 641, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  • Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:641
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Ershov & Juan S. Morales, 2021. "Sharing News Left and Right: The Effects of Policies Targeting Misinformation on Social Media," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 651, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    2. Aassve,Arnstein & Capezzone,Tommaso & Cavalli,Nicolo’ & Conzo,Pierluigi & Peng,Chen, 2022. "Trust in the time of coronavirus: longitudinal evidence from the United States," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 202203, University of Turin.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    social media; social conformity; political polarization; COVID-19.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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