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Share, comment, but do not like: The effect of politicians’ facial attractiveness on audience engagement on Facebook

Dana Markowitz-Elfassi (Department of Journalism and Communication, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel)
Moran Yarchi (Sammy Ofer School of Communication, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Herzliya, Israel)
Tal Samuel-Azran (Sammy Ofer School of Communication, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Herzliya, Israel)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 18 February 2019

Issue publication date: 3 September 2019

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362

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of politicians’ facial attractiveness on their online popularity as reflected in audience engagement with their Facebook posts during the 2015 Israeli election campaign.

Design/methodology/approach

Using Israel’s 2015 election campaign as the case study, the authors analyzed all messages posted (n=501) on 33 politicians’ official Facebook pages during the week leading to Election Day.

Findings

The results demonstrate that audiences do engage more with posts of the more facially attractive politicians. These posts generated more shares, more comments and more participants in their discussions – but not more likes – relative to posts of less attractive politicians. These effects became even stronger when the posts were accompanied by one or more visual image, and remained significant even after controlling for other engagement predictors, such as a politician’s gender, seniority or the timing of a post’s publication.

Social implications

The findings emphasize the importance of attractive looks for politicians. The findings highlight that attractive politicians’ posts attract more attention, allowing them to better spread their ideas. Thus, politicians should aim to post aesthetic images and visuals to promote better engagement with their ideas on social media.

Originality/value

The study expands our understanding of online presentations of politicians, focusing on the effect of politicians’ facial attractiveness on their online popularity. Recent studies have demonstrated that physically attractive politicians enjoy more and better media attention on television news, but not in non-visual media such as radio and newspapers. This effect has not been examined in the social media environment, a central arena for today’s political debates and one that involves many visual messages.

Keywords

Citation

Markowitz-Elfassi, D., Yarchi, M. and Samuel-Azran, T. (2019), "Share, comment, but do not like: The effect of politicians’ facial attractiveness on audience engagement on Facebook", Online Information Review, Vol. 43 No. 5, pp. 743-759. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-02-2018-0043

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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