Prior to Tamil Nadu’s 2021 Legislative Assembly election, will recruit subjects to participate in the study using Facebook ads. We will target the ads at adults living in the 24 constituencies where we have WhatsApp group links for both major political parties contesting the election. The ads will link to a baseline survey on Qualtrics, where participants will answer questions about themselves, their media use, and their political opinions and attitudes. At the end of the survey, we will provide participants with a link to either a AIADMK or a DMK (the two leading political parties in Tamil Nadu) WhatsApp group. The partisan affiliation of the group will be randomly assigned, and participants are fully informed about the randomization. We will track clicks on the randomly assigned links. Participants who click a link will be redirected to one of two randomly assigned types of groups, or a control group.
Some participants will be redirected to a group organized by the assigned political party (condition 1). These groups exist outside the context of the study, are organized at the constituency level, and allow any member to freely post text messages, images, videos, and audio recordings. They may also reply to previous messages posted to the group. Additionally, party members that administer the group feed the group with a steady stream of curated official party messaging. All group members can see all content that is posted to the group while they are a member. The group that a participant is invited to will correspond to the constituency where they report that they vote. If a group is not available for their constituency, the subject will be offered a link for a group that is organized at state level.
Other participants will be assigned to a broadcast-only group (condition 2). These groups are also organized at the constituency level, and each possible group corresponds directly to a group from condition 1. However, in these groups, group members are not themselves allowed to post. Instead, only the messages posted to the corresponding condition 1 group are automatically forwarded to the group. Participants are informed about the nature of these groups and that they only contain content coming directly from party administrators.
Finally, some participants who click the assigned link will be assigned to a control group (condition 3) and redirected to a final page of the survey where they are told that no link will be offered.
Approximately 3-4 weeks later, we will recontact participants to complete an endline survey, where we will measure changes in their political beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge. To understand mechanisms, we will also elicit their perceptions of the political beliefs and attitudes of the general population in their constituency, to understand whether they under- or over-account for the degree of selection in the messaging they were exposed to.