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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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