Data Shows that Facebook Campaign Increased Voter Registration in the States
On Friday, Sept. 23, Facebook, the social media giant and member of the CSG Associates program, pushed out a banner message to its American users reminding them to register to vote. The message read, “Are you registered to vote? Register now to make sure you have a voice in the election.” The reminder also included a link to the federal directory of state voter registration websites, and an option to share with your friends that you had registered. Facebook kept the banner up through Monday, Sept. 26. This is not the first time Facebook has gotten involved in civic engagement, it has been reminding people to vote since the 2008 election. In 2010 Facebook vote reminders were credited with turning out over 300,000 votes.[i] However, this does mark the first time that it has promoted voter registration.
Referencing the new initiative, Facebook’s Product Manager for Civic Engagement Samidh Chakrabarti stated, “Going back to 2008, we’ve been reminding people on Facebook to vote on Election Day and directing them to information on where to vote. This is the natural next step. We want people to have a voice in the process, and getting registered means that there’s one less hurdle for them.”[ii]
This new initiative yielded great results in a number of states. On the first day that the banner was present, online registrations throughout the country reached record numbers. Minnesota, for example, set a new record for its most online registrations in a week. After registering only 1,839 online voters the day before the message appeared, the number jumped to 26,743 the following day.[iii]
When speaking about the dramatic spike in online voter registrations Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon noted, "It was Facebook. It was social media. It was people- particularly young people, probably really taking to this call to action to go and register to vote."[iv]
At least 15 other states experienced a similar spike in online voter registrations as a result of the Facebook banner. California eclipsed the 100,000 mark with 123,279 online registrations in the first day of the initiative.
On September 23 Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office released a statement noting a 2255 percent increase in online voter registrations compared to the same date a year earlier. “I applaud Facebook for joining our efforts to increase voter registration awareness in Georgia, where it has never been easier to register to vote and engage in the electoral process,” Kemp stated. “I am encouraging all Facebook users to take action now and verify their registration status leading up to this year’s historic election in November.”[v]
It is worth noting that online voting initiatives affect certain demographics more than others. Although Facebook does not track data on who registered to vote using their prompt, there are more female users of the site than males. Additionally, online registrants tend to be comparatively young. A joint study conducted by the University of Washington and University of California, Berkeley found that 60 percent of voters who registered online were under the age of 34 in Washington State and that 55 percent were under 40 in Arizona.[vi]