I Click, Therefore I am: Predicting Clicktivist-Like Actions on Candidates’ Facebook Posts During the 2016 US Primary Election

Networks, Hacking, and Media – CITA MS@30: Now and Then and Tomorrow

ISBN: 978-1-78769-666-2, eISBN: 978-1-78769-665-5

ISSN: 2050-2060

Publication date: 27 November 2018

Abstract

Facebook “likes” are often used as a proxy of users’ attention and an affirmation of what is posted on Facebook (Gerodimos & Justinussen, 2015). To determine what factors predict “likes,” the authors analyzed Facebook posts made by the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, the top three candidates from the 2016 US primary election. Several possible factors were considered, such as the types of posts, the use of pronouns and emotions, the inclusion of slogans and hashtags, references made to opponents, as well as candidate’s mentions on national television. The results of an ordinary least-squared regression analysis showed that the use of highly charged (positive or negative) emotions and personalized posts (first-person singular pronouns) increased “likes” across all three candidates’ Facebook pages, whereas visual posts (posts containing either videos or photos) and the use of past tenses were liked more often by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ followers than by Trump’s followers. Television mentions boosted likes on Clinton and Sanders’ posts but had a negative effect on Trump’s. The study contributes to the growing literature on digitally networked participation (Theocharis, 2015) and supports the emerging notion of the new “hybrid media” system (Chadwick, 2013) for political communication. The study also raises questions as to the relevance of platforms such as Facebook to deliberative democratic processes since Facebook users are not necessarily engaging with the content in an organic way, but instead might be guided to specific content by the Facebook timeline algorithm and targeted ads.

Keywords

Citation

Valle, M., Wanless-Berk, A., Gruzd, A. and Mai, P. (2018), "I Click, Therefore I am: Predicting Clicktivist-Like Actions on Candidates’ Facebook Posts During the 2016 US Primary Election", Wellman, B., Robinson, L., Brienza, C., Chen, W. and Cotten, S. (Ed.) Networks, Hacking, and Media – CITA MS@30: Now and Then and Tomorrow (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 17), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 137-154. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2050-206020180000017008

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