Who speaks and who is heard on Facebook? Political mobilization and engagement patterns of partisanship and gender in Switzerland’s direct democracy





Facebook, mobilization, Political Campaigns, Engagement, voting, gender, political polarization, populism


This descriptive study investigates political mobilization and user engagement patterns on Facebook and associated partisan and gender discrepancies. It focuses on Switzerland, where political actors frequently seek to mobilize and shape citizens’ opinions before direct-democratic voting on wide-ranging policy issues. Using digital trace data from CrowdTangle, the analysis focuses on the posting frequency and received user interactions of 770 Swiss political actors’ Facebook pages. The analysis period covers 20 months, from November 2019 to July 2021, during which five popular votes occurred, and the sampled FB pages published more than 226,000 posts and received more than 18,000,000 user interactions. A descriptive quantitative analysis and a multiple regression analysis revealed an overall skewed pattern: Mobilization and user engagement are driven by small subsets of highly active and interacted-with FB pages. A few FB pages of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party and male politicians receive highly disproportionate user engagement – relative to more centrist parties and female politicians – but also relative to their electoral share in the national parliament. The results show that only a few dominant political voices are widely heard on Facebook, even if many speak. These insights are of interest beyond Switzerland, as Facebook and other social media platforms shape political discourse across liberal democracies.

Author Biographies

Julian Maitra, University of Fribourg

Julian Maitra is a postdoctoral research and teaching associate at the Department of Communication and Media Research at the University of Fribourg. His research applies computational methods and social media analytics to study the digital transformation of the public sphere. In the past, he worked at the University of St.Gallen and as a tabloid journalist in Berlin.

Regula Hänggli Fricker, University of Fribourg

Regula Hänggli is professor in political communication at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). Her work deals with (digital) democracy, public debates, opinion formation, and the origin of dialogue. Before she came to Fribourg, she was a professor at Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR). She was also member of a temporary federal expert group addressing the digital transformation of our society.




How to Cite

Maitra, J., & Hänggli, R. (2023). Who speaks and who is heard on Facebook? Political mobilization and engagement patterns of partisanship and gender in Switzerland’s direct democracy. Journal of Quantitative Description: Digital Media , 3. https://doi.org/10.51685/jqd.2023.008