2020 Election

Academic Research

  • Journal Article

    The Effects of Facebook and Instagram on the 2020 Election: A Deactivation Experiment

    • Hunt Alcott, 
    • Matthew Gentzkow, 
    • Winter Mason, 
    • Arjun Wilkins, 
    • Pablo Barberá
    • Taylor Brown, 
    • Juan Carlos Cisneros, 
    • Adriana Crespo-Tenorio, 
    • Drew Dimmery, 
    • Deen Freelon, 
    • Sandra González-Bailón
    • Andrew M. Guess
    • Young Mie Kim, 
    • David Lazer, 
    • Neil Malhotra, 
    • Devra Moehler, 
    • Sameer Nair-Desai, 
    • Houda Nait El Barj, 
    • Brendan Nyhan, 
    • Ana Carolina Paixao de Queiroz, 
    • Jennifer Pan, 
    • Jaime Settle, 
    • Emily Thorson, 
    • Rebekah Tromble, 
    • Carlos Velasco Rivera, 
    • Benjamin Wittenbrink, 
    • Magdalena Wojcieszak
    • Saam Zahedian, 
    • Annie Franco, 
    • Chad Kiewiet De Jong, 
    • Natalie Jomini Stroud, 
    • Joshua A. Tucker

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2024

    View Article View abstract

    We study the effect of Facebook and Instagram access on political beliefs, attitudes, and behavior by randomizing a subset of 19,857 Facebook users and 15,585 Instagram users to deactivate their accounts for 6 wk before the 2020 U.S. election. We report four key findings. First, both Facebook and Instagram deactivation reduced an index of political participation (driven mainly by reduced participation online). Second, Facebook deactivation had no significant effect on an index of knowledge, but secondary analyses suggest that it reduced knowledge of general news while possibly also decreasing belief in misinformation circulating online. Third, Facebook deactivation may have reduced self-reported net votes for Trump, though this effect does not meet our preregistered significance threshold. Finally, the effects of both Facebook and Instagram deactivation on affective and issue polarization, perceived legitimacy of the election, candidate favorability, and voter turnout were all precisely estimated and close to zero.

  • Book

    Online Data and the Insurrection

    Media and January 6th, 2024

    View Book View abstract

    Online data is key to understanding the leadup to the January 6 insurrection, including how and why election fraud conspiracies spread online, how conspiracy groups organized online to participate in the insurrection, and other factors of online life that led to the insurrection. However, there are significant challenges in accessing data for this research. First, platforms restrict which researchers get access to data, as well as what researchers can do with the data they access. Second, this data is ephemeral; that is, once users or the platform remove the data, researchers can no longer access it. These factors affect what research questions can ever be asked and answered.

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