Social Media and the Behavior of Politicians: Evidence from Facebook in Brazil
with Pedro Bessone, Claudio Ferraz and Pedro C.L. Souza. [Online Article] [PDF]
We study the relationship between the spread of social media platforms and the communication and responsiveness of politicians towards voters, in the context of the expansion of Facebook in Brazil. We use self-collected data on the universe of Facebook activities by federal legislators and the variation in access induced by the spread of the 3G mobile phone network to establish three sets of findings: (i) Politicians use social media extensively to communicate with constituents, finely targeting localities while addressing policy-relevant topics; (ii) They increase their online engagement, especially with places where they have a large pre-existing vote share; but (iii) They shift their offline engagement (measured by speeches and earmarked transfers) away from connected municipalities within their base of support. Our results suggest that, rather than increasing responsiveness, social media may enable politicians to solidify their position with core supporters using communication strategies, while shifting resources away towards localities that lag in social media presence.