Graduation Year

2016

Date of Submission

4-2016

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Economics

Reader 1

Eric Helland

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© 2016 Sara Linssen

Abstract

Recent election campaigns generated extensive attention for their creative use of Internet, from President Obama’s 2008 Facebook tactic of allowing Facebook friends to share their support with each other to tools that allow supporters to mobilize and influence offline. This thesis asks whether Internet access alone can influence an individual to vote, within the context of American Presidential elections. First, I replicate similar literature by conducting a series of Linear Probability Models that indicate that Internet does have a significant impact on an individual’s decision to vote. However, one major issue that previous studies fail to address is the likelihood of endogeneity between self-reported Internet access and voting behavior. To address this, I introduce a measure of Internet Service Providers available in a given Congressional District as an instrumental variable. Once instrumented, it appears that Internet is largely insignificant. However, there is a key exception in 2008, where Internet access is significant. I argue that this is due to the developments in social media technology that revolutionized the ways in which candidates engaged with voters and voters engaged with one another.

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