NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Social Media, Sentiment and Public Opinions: Evidence from #Brexit and #USElection

Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Tho Pham, Oleksandr Talavera

NBER Working Paper No. 24631
Issued in May 2018
NBER Program(s):Public Economics, Political Economy

This paper studies information diffusion in social media and the role of bots in shaping public opinions. Using Twitter data on the 2016 E.U. Referendum (“Brexit”) and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, we find that diffusion of information on Twitter is largely complete within 1-2 hours. Stronger interactions across agents with similar beliefs are consistent with the “echo chambers” view of social media. Bots have a tangible effect on the tweeting activity of humans but the degree of bots’ influence depends on whether bots provide information consistent with humans’ priors. Overall, our results suggest that the aggressive use of Twitter bots, coupled with the fragmentation of social media and the role of sentiment, could contribute to the vote outcomes.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24631

 
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