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Word on the street

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Subtitle:politicians, mediatized street protest, and responsiveness on social media
Communicative responsiveness of politicians to public opinion signals has become increasingly important for politicians' electoral fate and citizens' sense of feeling represented. Although politicians can communicate directly with the public via social media, little is known about the extent, conditions, and favorability of politicians' responsiveness on social media to public opinion cues. This paper scrutinizes politicians' responsiveness to one particular public opinion signal: street protest. Do politicians respond to street protest on social media? And if so, when, and how do they react? We address these questions by means of two datasets: (1) a protest event dataset of all protests staged in Brussels (Belgium) between July 2017 and June 2019 (N = 124); and (2) a social media dataset containing all Facebook messages (N = 36.323) and tweets (N = 142.596) by Belgian politicians (N = 236) in the days surrounding each protest. Results show that politicians do respond to protest and its issue; the lion's share of social media messages supporting protesters. Protest that is large, (inter)nationally coordinated, and organized on socio-cultural issues is more frequently discussed by politicians; left-wing, opposition, and issue-owning politicians are more responsive as well. Whereas especially left-wing politicians endorse protests, right-wing politicians are more prone to discredit it. Responsiveness is thus asymmetric across the political spectrum. Our findings have implications for democratic representation and its challenges in hybrid media systems.
Journal: Information, communication and society
ISSN: 1369-118X
Volume: 99
Pages: 1 - 30
Publication year:2022
Keywords:A1 Journal article