Sharing Fear via Facebook: A Lesson in Political Public Relations

© Media Watch 6 (1) 5-15, 2015
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2015/v6i1/55371

Sharing Fear via Facebook: A Lesson in Political Public Relations

1University of Miami, Florida, USA
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USA

Our study compared the use of fear messages on Facebook by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the 2012 U.S. presidential elections. Results show that written fear messages embedded in photographs posted on Facebook by both candidates affected the degree to which those photographs were shared. More specifically, photographs containing written fear messages were shared more often than photographs not containing written fear messages. Furthermore, while the challenging candidate, Mitt Romney, used more photographs containing fear messages, the increase in shares was consistent across candidates. Implications regarding information distribution within communities, public relations practitioners specializing in political campaigning and society as a whole are discussed.

Keywords: Content analysis, social media, 2012 election, protection, motivation theory


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Dr. Jan Hendrik Boehmer is an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Management in the School of Communication at the University of Miami, Florida, USA. Boehmer maintains strong industry connections, working as a writer, editor and social media consultant for various media organizations in Europe and the United States.

Dr. Michael B. Friedman is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USA. His research interests include public relations, visual persuasion, and media effects.