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When “Positive Posting” Attracts Voters: User Engagement and Emotions in the 2017 UK Election Campaign on Facebook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Paolo Gerbaudo, Federico Marogna, Chiara Alzetta

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Media + Society
Volume5
Early online date11 Nov 2019
DOIs
Accepted/In press5 Aug 2019
E-pub ahead of print11 Nov 2019
Published2019

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King's Authors

Abstract

Social media are widely held to have played an important role in the 2017 UK general elections. But it is not altogether clear how exactly they contributed to the communication battle between Labour and the Conservatives. This article analyses the posts and comments on the official Facebook pages of the Labour Party and the Conservative Party and their respective leaders, Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. We look at the relationship between topics, emotions, and user engagement. Labour clearly outperformed the Tories, with Corbyn’s personal page having 10 times the interactions of May’s. We retrieve part of the reason for this success in the “positive posting” strategy adopted by Labour and the way it helped to attract user engagement. While the Conservative Party focused on negative issues such as Brexit, terrorism, and national security, Labour focused on positive issues, such as the promise of higher social spending and appeals to the grassroots, generating far higher levels of engagement. Overall, positive topic tended to fare better than more negative and controversial issues, such as security and Brexit. Our findings thus suggest the need for a more balanced understanding of the relationship between content, emotions, and user engagement on social media, moving beyond simplistic views of social media politics as necessarily biased in favor of aggressive and negative campaigning.

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