The effects of oppositional comments on political campaign pages on Facebook

Publicerad den 16 november 2023
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Earlier this year, Michael Bossetta published the results of a study on political comments and posts on three official campaign pages on Facebook active during the Brexit referendum.

Michael Bossetta and his colleagues set out to study oppositional political statements on Facebook and their potential effects. For this end, they looked at posts and comments left on three campaign pages active during the Brexit referendum: StrongerIn, VoteLeave, and LeaveEU.

Studying over 2 million comments on the three pages, Bossetta found that the pages were not echo chambers. Almost one-third of the comments disagreed with the political ideology of the respective campaign page. But these ‘cross-cutting comments’ come from a relatively small number of users, and only 7 percent of comments contained political arguments.

Bossetta et al. also found that counter-ideological comments could influence the degree of voter mobilization possible on the pages. For example, over half of the comments on the page of the campaign to remain with the EU, StrongerIn, were written by “Leavers”, reducing the “Remainers” ability to advocate for a clear policy stance on the adverse effects of Brexit on the UK.

“Succinctly put, we argue that Brexiteers’ incursion into the StrongerIn page disarmed its potential for political organization,” write the researchers. “Individual acts of cross-cutting expression may not be the only contributor of this disarmament but rather, a more collective acknowledgment by Remainers that the StrongerIn page had been hijacked.”

The article "Reconceptualizing Cross-Cutting Political Expression on Social Media: A Case Study of Facebook Comments During the 2016 Brexit Referendum" is co-authored by Lund University researcher Anamaria Dutceac Segesten and Duje Bonacci, University of Zagreb and published in Political Communication.
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