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date: 21 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Citizens’ electoral choices are subject to persuasion from numerous sources, including their social networks, media outlets, candidates’ campaigns, and interest groups. Extensive literatures address the isolated effects of each source, with mechanisms as diverse as information, influence, and sanctioning driving these effects. Understanding these isolated effects is sufficient to the extent that each effect is independent of all others. However, this is not typically the case when social networks are involved, due to the feedback inherent in the propagation of persuasion across networks. This feedback implies that network structure conditions the effects of other sources of persuasion. Consequently, failure to consider social network structure in studies of political persuasion risks biased accounts of the effects of persuasion. This essay elaborates on this point and discusses its consequences for the study and practice of electoral persuasion.

Keywords: social networks, media, persuasion, elections, information, influence, sanctioning

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