Excellence in Undergraduate Research and Writing Award

Julian Berkowitz

"Facebook and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election"


Julian Berkowitz

Julian Berkowitz is graduating from The George Washington University this spring (2017) with a double major in sociology and political science as well as a minor in music. Over the course of his time at GW, Julianhas tried to think about politics from a sociological standpoint, seeking to apply classical and contemporary sociological theories to pressing political issues. As a music minor with a deep passion for jazz drumming, Julian has taken a number of music courses at GW and spends much of his free time practicing drums or playing gigs around the city.  
 
Julian’s undergraduate senior thesis in sociology is titled “Facebook and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.” His primary research question was: Did political news stories—including fake news stories presented as legitimate political news—posted or shared on Facebook effect Americans’ political judgements of the two major party candidates during the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, and if so, what were the specific effects? Drawing from his synthesis of his own original survey data, previous academic literature, contemporary sociological theories, and an interview with political communications expert Dr. Danny Hayes, Julian concluded that: (1) a sizeable segment of the U.S. adult population gets news from Facebook, (2) Facebook had a greater impact on political judgements during the 2016 presidential campaign than “traditional” news mediums, (3) “fake news” information—believed to be legitimate political information—might have factored into some Americans’ decisions of which candidate to support for president, and (4) it is unclear whether or not the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election would have been different if the fake news articles that were spread on Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign had not existed.