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From Posting to Voting: The Effects of Political Competition on Online Political Engagement*

Abstract

How does living in a battleground state during a presidential election affect an individual’s political engagement? We utilize a unique collection of 113 million Facebook status updates to compare users’ political discussion during the 2008 election. “Battleground” state users are significantly more likely to discuss politics in the campaign season than are users in uncompetitive “blackout” states. Posting a political status update—a form of day-to-day engagement with politics—mediates ∼20 percent of the relationship between exposure to political competition and self-reported voter turnout. This paper is among the first to use a massive quantity of social media data to explain the microfoundations of how people think, feel, and act on a daily basis in response to their political environment.

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Jaime E. Settle is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government, College of William & Mary, Morton Hall, Room 10, 100 Ukrop Way, Williamsburg, VA 23187 (jsettle@wm.edu). Robert M. Bond, Assistant Professor, School of Communication and Department of Sociology, Ohio State University Derby Hall, 3072 154 N. Oval Mall Columbus, OH 43210-1339 (bond.136@osu.edu). Lorenzo Coviello, PhD Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California, San Diego 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA, 92093 (lcoviell@ucsd.edu). Christopher J. Fariss, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University, 200 Pond Lab University Park, PA 16802 (cjf0006@gmail.com). James H. Fowler, Professor, University of California, San Diego 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA, 92093 (fowler@ucsd.edu). Jason J. Jones, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Institute for Advanced Computational Science State University of New York, Stony Brook Stony Brook, New York 11794-4356 (jasonjeffreyjones@gmail.com)

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Political Science Research and Methods
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