There have been significant concerns in some political groups about foreign interference via social media on many recent elections. But there seems to be little hard evidence that any content on social media has any significant influence on the way people vote.

This recent story seems to provide a partial answer to that question (though it does not address the issue of whether foreign interference matters). The story addresses the (narrower) question of whether political advertising on Facebook has any influence. The Register reports it like this:

...researchers from the University of Warwick in England, ETH Zurich in Switzerland, and the University Carlos III in Spain, assert that Facebook ads do influence elections, but only among certain voters...

...The researchers contend that social media campaigns worked well to encourage undecided voters to support Donald Trump and to increase Republican voter turnout on election day significantly.

The original analysis is here.

Is the analysis credible? Did Facebook ads make a significant difference to voting patterns in 2016?

NB This is not a question about foreign interference but about the narrower issue of whether social media content of any kind has a significant effect.

  • 1
    The sources are credible. The field of study is new and subject to controversy and improvements but fact is there are people spending a lot of money on those kind of analysis/bots/fake news (and looks likes those spending more money are winning elections)
    – jean
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 13:56
  • 1
    @jean Sounds like a prototype answer to me...
    – matt_black
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 14:10
  • 2
    As noted, this question does not single out foreign-source ads, so it applies to ads placed by US-based PACs, which far exceed the foreign ones. I remember way back in 2008 when the Obama campaign touted the new-ish idea that social-media ads were the way to reach younger voters. Just 8 years later it was a giant force to reach everyone. Perhaps part of the argument is: a viral video can reach many more viewers per dollar spent than TV or print ads.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 14:52
  • 1
    It's not entirely clear what you're asking about. The title says "ads" but you also say "social media content of any kind". Things other than ads (false or inaccurate news articles being shared, etc.) may have a significant impact, so the answers to these questions may be noticeably different. Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 16:52
  • 1
    @IanD.Scott Not being a facebook user I have no clear distinction between paid for content and other stuff people report. I thought that the claim was about forms of paid for content (which may then be reposted). I assume that "ads" is a synonym for "paid for" but if that isn't right I'm happy to make clarifications.
    – matt_black
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 20:43


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