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The Political Impact of the Internet on US Presidential Elections
According to anecdotal evidence, the internet is said to have played a key role in the 2008 US presidential elections: the Obama campaignís online fundraising arm brought in a record $500 million in small individual donations; and the campaignís heavy use of social media purportedly contributed to the highest rate of youth turnout since voting was extended to 18-yearolds. By combining a number of datasets we assembled from FEC and FCC data, we provide robust evidence that internet penetration in US counties was associated with an increase in turnout, an increase in campaign contributions to the Democrats and an increase in the share of Democratic vote. We propose an IV strategy to deal with potential endogeneity concerns exploiting geographic discontinuities along state borders with different right-of-way laws, which constitute the main determinant of the cost of building new infrastructure. The positive correlations we uncovered only survive this test in the case of turnout, while the pro-Democratic Party effect of the internet appears to be less robust.
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