Electoral Competition in the Age of Social Media: The Role of Social Media Influencers

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Publication History

Received: September 11, 2019
Revised: March 18, 2021; May 8, 2022; September 11, 2022; November 22, 2022
Accepted: December 20, 2022
Published Online as Articles in Advance: November 30, 2023
Published Online in Issue: December 1, 2023


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Social media—and, in particular, social media influencers—are playing an increasingly central role in shaping public opinion on a variety of issues. The political sphere is no exception. In response to the impact that social media influencers have on citizens’ political views and voting behaviors, political parties adapt their messages and policies during election campaigns. Media outlets, too, faced with competition for readership from social media, are adjusting their news coverage. To analyze the nature and extent of the impact of social media on parties’ policies, media outlets’ news reports, and citizens’ opinions, we used a game theoretical model of electoral competition involving four key stakeholders—citizens, political parties, media outlets, and social media influencers.  Our results show that with social media, parties’ policy positions become more moderate while media outlets’ editorial positions become more extreme. We also show that citizens’ opinions may become more polarized when the influencers’ true editorial positions are more homogeneous as a result of increased information distortion.

Additional Details
Author Chao Ding, Wael Jabr, and Hong Guo
Year 2023
Volume 47
Issue 4
Keywords Social media, social media influencers, information distortion, electoral competition, editorial position, ideology, polarization
Page Numbers 1647-1662
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