Policy or Person? Representation in the Digital Age

18.03.2019 - 12:00 to 13:30
Location : 
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Type of Event : 
AB B-Kolloquium
Dr. Nathalie Giger
Lecturer affiliation: 
Universität Genf

Social media platforms like Twitter have the potential to transform democracies as they allow for direct contact between representatives and represented. However, the value of social media for representation depends heavily on the content, on the information that politicians provide through their social media activities. Social media content is of particular value for substantive representation if it is about policy and if voters appreciate policy information. Personalized social media content (about holidays, leisure activities) may increase sympathy and likeability of politicians amongst voters. Yet, academic work on the topic has so far mainly focused on the volume of social media usage. In this study, we focus on the content of tweets and show what politicians tweet about and when. We classify tweets of German and Swiss politicians into being about them personally or about policy. In a second step, we scrutinize how voters evaluate the tweets that are either about policy or person in terms of their representational value. This is based on a first survey experiment that has been conducted with 500 participants.