Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jason Reifler - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Sarah Allen Gershon

Third Advisor

Dr. Sean Richey

Abstract

This study examines the impact of political information conveyed through computer-mediated social networks. Using a popular social networking website, Facebook, a randomized field experiment involving Georgia State University undergraduates explores the extent to which computer-mediated peer-to-peer communication can increase political knowledge. For this experiment two Facebook profiles were created, one to administer information about the 2009 Atlanta mayoral election and the other to administer timely entertainment information. Students were randomly assigned one of these profiles to “friend.” Students choosing not to “friend” their assigned profile were aggregated to create an additional control condition. Treatments were administered to those who “friended” their assigned profile for the seven days preceding the mayoral election. To assess the transfer of knowledge between the profiles and the students a subsequent in-person survey was conducted (N=374). Results reveal that being exposed to political information by a peer through a social networking website increases the probability of recalling at least some of that information by 18.2 percent. Notably, the same method of exposure to entertainment information produces no significant effects on the recall of that information.

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