The success of politicians in the US largely depends on the amount of funding they receive from various sources. Although political action committees contribute significantly to elections, a recent survey showed that base contributions (gifts of less than $200) are just as crucial and contribute significantly. Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign raised 69% of its funding from small donors.
Traditionally, volunteers went door to door to solicit donations from people. Today politicians use social media to encourage their supporters to donate and eventually vote for them. Many politicians, such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, have turned to this type of political crowdfunding.
The main goal of political crowdfunding is to help politicians raise funds directly from individual donors. However, it is also crucial for assessing the acceptability of politicians’ political agendas among potential supporters. Crowdfunding can reach and build loyalty from a much broader group than a party’s usual base, while minimizing party and donor time and effort.
Although political crowdfunding is potentially becoming a way to create a strong sense of community, the impact of these campaigns can go much further. These campaigns often focus on socially divisive partisan issues, such as gun control and climate change. Discussions of these issues can influence potential supporters to develop highly polarized views on partisan issues.
As a computer scientist researching social media and persuasion, I have studied whether casual exposure to political crowdfunding campaigns could create a lasting sense of disapproval about partisan issues, even when those issues are not discussed as part of a political fundraising campaign. money. .
My colleagues and I found that casual exposure to these campaigns can influence people’s views on politically sensitive issues like climate change. These influences can remain active for many days and can influence people’s decisions on the same issue, even when it is not being discussed by a politician in a political campaign.
Enduring Influence of Political Crowdfunding Campaigns
Our team recruited subjects from Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online platform for hiring people based on various criteria. We hired them in two groups: the first group supported the Democratic Party and the other group supported the Republican Party.
We first showed all of our subjects a political crowdfunding campaign by a politician from the political party they did not support. This process allowed us to present the climate change argument from a particular perspective that we believed the subjects would not naturally support due to their political ideology.
After this casual exposure to a political crowdfunding campaign, we notified subjects that the study was complete. We actually recruited the same group of people after 10 days as part of a new study, this time asking them to consider an online charity event indirectly related to climate change.
Subjects who supported the Democratic Party were asked to guess the donation amount they would feel comfortable pledging to a movement in which organizers were trying to help people who lost their jobs in coal mines closed due to the law. climate action. Republican Party supporters were asked to do the same task of guessing the appropriate donation amount, but the movement was about planting trees in Central America to stop the effects of severe deforestation.
Both groups refused to donate money to the assigned cause. Initially, we found this result disappointing but not surprising, considering that we were challenging their fundamental beliefs about climate change. However, we decided to take a second look at our findings when our team did the same experiment one more time with a new group of people.
This time we do not show a political crowdfunding campaign to any of the subjects. Instead, we showed them a news article about a politician, even though the article did not show any information about the amount of donation the politician received from supporters. All other details of these two experiments were the same. This time, to our surprise, the subjects did not hesitate to donate a considerable amount to charitable movements regardless of their political ideology.
This made us wonder if and how casual exposure to political campaign crowdfunding influenced the first group of subjects who made the rather challenging decision not to donate anything to charitable movements. After close observation, we concluded that it was not the content. Rather, it was the structure of political crowdfunding campaigns that left a lasting influence on our subjects.
The political crowdfunding campaign not only presented the politician’s perspective on climate change, but also showed how much money had been donated to that campaign. The clear signal of a significant amount of support for a politician from opposition party supporters influenced their future actions, including decisions to donate, related to climate change movements. Although the news made the same arguments about climate change, it did not significantly influence the second group of issues because it did not show a direct signal of support in the form of monetary donations.
why does it matter
Political crowdfunding is widely considered a new and convenient means of raising funds from grassroots supporters. Most crowdfunding studies have focused on strategies that can raise more money from a diverse audience. Our study examined the impact of such campaigns on people’s views on partisan issues.
Our research suggests that people’s opinions can be polarized based on the information they see in surprising places, and that impact can last for a long period of time. The implications of our findings are critical because they suggest that people may double down on their views rather than consider the merits of a position when processing information from online platforms, especially on sensitive and divisive issues like climate change.