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

According to the World Bank’s 2017 World Development Report, the average global voter turnout rate has dropped by more than 10% over the last 25 years. This decline comes as online campaigning, aka “clicktivism” rises.

Clicktivism is a term often used to describe the practice of using social media to advance political or social causes with a simple click of a computer mouse. For example, Change.org, an online petition platform reports that more than 260 million people have signed or started a digital petition on their website.

Voter turnout vs Clicktivism across the world

While organizations such as Change.org have changed the nature of political campaigns, many social media and political science researchers are still debating about the nature and impact of “clicktivism” on political engagement.

In a recently released study, “I Click, Therefore I am: Predicting Clicktivist-Like Actions on Candidates’ Facebook Posts During the 2016 US Primary Election” (published in Networks, Hacking, and Media – CITA MS@30: Now and Then and Tomorrow), Marc Esteve Del Valle, Alicia Wanless-Berk, Anatoliy Gruzd and I examined why people click “like” on Facebook in response to posts made by the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, three leading presidential candidates during the 2016 US Primaries. Our goal was to see if we could predict what types of posts from political candidates were most engaging in terms of the number of “likes” they received.

The results 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 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.

You can access full-text at https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/S2050-206020180000017008

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2018 International Conference on Social Media and Society.