Trumped by context collapse: Examination of ‘Liking’ political candidates in the presence of audience diversity

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Harnessing social media such as Facebook is now considered critical for electoral success. Although Facebook is widely used by the electorate, few have ‘Liked’ the Facebook pages of the political candidates for whom they vote. To provide understanding of this discrepancy, the present paper offers the first investigation on the role of audience diversity on ‘Liking’ behavior, as well as its association with varying degrees of social anxiety that may arise from ‘Liking’ political candidates. A survey of potential voters who used Facebook preceding the 2016 Presidential Election was conducted (n=1027). Using the lens of Self-Presentation Theory, results found that for those who had not already ‘Liked’ Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, their intention to do so before the election was negatively associated with the diversity of their Facebook audience. This relationship was mediated by their expected degree of social anxiety from ‘Liking’ the candidate. A comparison of audience diversity of participants who had ‘Liked’ a candidate vs. those who had not ‘Liked’ a candidate also showed that increased audience diversity hinders ‘Liking’. This paper contributes to the knowledge of engagement with politicians through social media as well as the study of audience diversity more generally. Implications for managers are provided.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-180
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date17 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • social media
  • politics
  • context collapse
  • social anxiety
  • Facebook
  • audience diversity


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