What makes people share political content on social media? The role of emotion, authority and ideology

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Abstract

In this paper, we examine which content characteristics lead to increased sharing of political information on social media, and which role political ideology has in user sharing behavior. More specifically, we investigate the impact of emotions and authority on sharing, as well as the moderating role of political extremity of social media users. We analyzed 10,141 political tweets, sent by 527 influencers between July 2019 and June 2020. The results reveal that content in which emotions are more prevalent than argument quality is more likely to be shared than content in which argument quality is prevalent. Perhaps surprisingly, we also show that content in which positive emotions are more prevalent than negative emotions is more likely to be shared than content in which negative emotions are prevalent. Moreover, authority (i.e., a dominant language style and a high number of followers) can lead to increased shares. Finally, we find that content in which positive emotions are more prevalent than negative emotions is less effective in increasing shares when users are located at the ideological extreme compared to the ideological center. On the one hand, we provide insights into how influencers in social media networks can be utilized for political campaigning. On the other hand, we provide insights into what makes users engage with political content from influencers that might contribute to political polarization on social media.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107150
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Volume129
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

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