Nature has published a new study that found Facebook provided a small but nonetheless significant impact on voter turnout in the 2010 Congressional elections, reports The New York Times. During the study, about 60 million Facebook users saw a "Today is Election Day" banner with information on nearby polling stations and images of up to six friends who said they had voted. When compared to two control groups of 600,000 each — one of which received the Election Day notice sans photos of friends, and the other which received no banner whatsoever — the study found that the notice with friends' pictures led to 340,000 additional votes. This means that only about half of a percent of those who received the special banner decided to vote as a result.
Although the number is small when compared to the 61 million users who logged into Facebook that day or the 90.7 million individuals who voted in that election, the study proves that social networks can be crucial in influencing behavior patterns among groups of friends. This influence, especially between close friends, may prove even more important in the 2012 Presidental election, which has a much stronger presence on social networks than any previous election to date.