Social Media, Sentiment and Public Opinions: Evidence from #Brexit and #USElection
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.
We are grateful to participants of the 2017 Royal Economics Society Conference, the 12th Annual Conference - Warsaw International Economic Meeting, and the 15th Annual Media Economics Workshop for comments. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.