transfer 23(1) » Rezeptions- und Wirkungsforschung

Political Communication on Social Media

Conversationalists, Virtual Citizens, and Lurkers: A Typology of Brazilian Political Communicators on Social Media Platforms

As was the case in many countries in 2017, Brazilian society was going through a striking political polarization process. Those circumstances coupled with upcoming federal elections in 2018 and a lack of data on Brazilian social media users’ who utilize those platforms as a political arena were the motivating forces behind this thesis. The work carried out a survey about political communication activities of Brazilian’s on social media platforms. Even though the sample (N=627) was not representative of the Brazilian population, it was enough to conduct a quantitative data analysis.

A hierarchical cluster analysis yielded three clusters, building a typology of Brazilian political communicators on social media: the “Casual Conversationalists”, mostly only willing to exchange messages about politics with other users; the “Engaged Virtual Citizens” that carry out all of the activities surveyed; and the “Lurkers” that mostly only passively read information available on their timelines. The results showed that assumptions made based on the theoretical background indicating that people from lower classes and gender minorities would be less inclined to engage in politics on social media is false, since those demographics were overrepresented in the “Engaged Virtual Citizens” cluster and underrepresented in the other two. Also noteworthy was the fact that self-described “centrists” in the political spectrum were discernibly underrepresented in the “Engaged Virtual Citizens” cluster.