Recent studies examine politicians’ decisions to use social media, as well as the content of the messages that these political actors disseminate on social media platforms. We contribute to this literature by examining how race competitiveness and a candidate’s position in the race relative to her opponent affect their decisions to issue attacks. Through content analysis of nearly 15,000 Facebook posts for tone (positive or negative), we find that while competitive races encourage both candidates to issue more negative posts, candidates in less competitive races embrace attack messages with more or less frequency depending on whether they trail or lead their opponent. We find that social media negativity is much more likely to be a desperation strategy employed by underdog candidates in less competitive races. We also run separate models examining the factors that drive policy and personal attacks. While underdog candidates are more likely to engage in issue attacks, candidates in competitive races are significantly more likely to use Facebook to make personal attacks.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: May 19, 2016
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