Who speaks and who is heard on Facebook? Political mobilization and engagement patterns of partisanship and gender in Switzerland’s direct democracy
Keywords: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.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Julian Maitra, Regula Hänggli Fricker
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