Do People 'Like' Candidates on Facebook? Not Really — From Direct to Indirect and Institutional Effects of Social Media in Politics

17 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2013

See all articles by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

University of Oxford - Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Cristian Vaccari

University of Bologna - Faculty of Political Science; Royal Holloway University of London

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

The online popularity of a few exceptional candidates has led many to suggest that social media have given politicians powerful ways of communicating directly with voters. In this paper, we examine whether this is happening on a significant scale and show, based on analysis of 224 candidates involved in competitive races in the 2010 U.S. congressional elections, that the majority of politicians online are in fact largely ignored by the electorate. Citizens’ attention to candidates online approximates power law distributions, with a few drawing many followers while most languish in obscurity. We therefore suggest that the political implications of social media are generally better understood in terms of facilitating indirect communication and institutional change than in terms of direct communication.

Keywords: internet, politics, social media, facebook, youtube, twitter, elections

Suggested Citation

Nielsen, Rasmus Kleis and Vaccari, Cristian, Do People 'Like' Candidates on Facebook? Not Really — From Direct to Indirect and Institutional Effects of Social Media in Politics (2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2274082 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2274082

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism ( email )

13 Norham Gardens
Oxford, OX2 6PS
United Kingdom

Cristian Vaccari

University of Bologna - Faculty of Political Science ( email )

Via Giacomo della Torre 5
Forli 47100, 40100
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www.cristianvaccari.it

Royal Holloway University of London ( email )

Department of Politics and International Relations
Royal Holloway, University of London
Egham, Surrey TE20 0EX
United Kingdom

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