Online engagement with 2020 election misinformation and turnout in the 2021 Georgia runoff election

Jon Green, William Hobbs, Stefan McCabe, and David Lazer

Abstract

Following the 2020 general election, Republican elected officials, including then-President Donald Trump, promoted conspiracy theories claiming that Joe Biden’s close victory in Georgia was fraudulent. Such conspiratorial claims could implicate participation in the Georgia Senate runoff election in different ways—signaling that voting doesn’t matter, distracting from ongoing campaigns, stoking political anger at out-partisans, or providing rationalizations for (lack of) enthusiasm for voting during a transfer of power. Here, we evaluate the possibility of any on-average relationship with turnout by combining behavioral measures of engagement with election conspiracies online and administrative data on voter turnout for 40,000 Twitter users registered to vote in Georgia. We find small, limited associations. Liking or sharing messages opposed to conspiracy theories was associated with higher turnout than expected in the runoff election, and those who liked or shared tweets promoting fraud-related conspiracy theories were slightly less likely to vote.

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