What’s not to “Like”?

How political expression on social media enhances political participation

Quantitative Researcher

Survey | Structure Equation Modeling | SPSS & AMOS

The goal of this study is to understand:

  • The meaning and  influence of two motivations, civic and social motivations, for discussing politics on social media.
  • The role of political expression on social media as a form of citizenship.
  • The impact of social interaction on social media on political behavior, namely political discussion and participation.

Two Motivations for Social Media Expression

civic motiv
Civic Motivation
social motive
Social Motivation

Civic motivation:  In line with the deliberative perspective of political discussion. People engage in politics due to a civic desire to learn about public affairs and politics, express opinions and preferences, and persuade others to do the same.

Social motivation: In line with the interpersonal relationship perspective of political discussion. People can discuss politics with a desire to form and maintain social relationships—even though they may not be interested in politics per se.

Political Expression

Refers to actions people engage in to reflect their political attitudes and opinions. Compare with political discussion, expression requires less time, effort and communicative ability.

For example, changing your profile picture to support an individual, topic, issue… all considered as “political expression”.

poli expression

Mediated pathway through political discussion


Model and Hypothesis

model mapTwo-wave U.S. national data

Three SEM models:

  • Cross-sectional model: As baseline
  • Lagged panel model: Wave 1 and Wave 2
  • Fixed-effects model: obtain unbiased estimates with unmeasured traits of individuals removed. (Shah et al., 2005)

Model Testing

  • qH1a and H1b: Civic and social motivations directly led to political discussion.
  • qH2a and H2b: Civic and social motivation had direct effect on political expression
  • qH3a and H3b: Political expression directly associated and mediated via discussion to offline participation.
  • Civic motivation directly associated with offline participation, but not does social motivation.
  • Civic motivation more strongly associated to political discussion, while social motivation more strongly associated to political expression.

model 1model 2model 3


  • Civic motivations for discussing politics directly link to discussion and offline participation;
  • While social motivations instead encourage more political expression and through this path lead to offline.
  • This project provides counter argument to view the low-cost and easy online forms of participation: Casual chatting would involve political elements, gradually drive to political engagement.
  • It indicates a new forms of citizenship: express themselves as citizen.
  • It also justifies digital expression of individual political preferences as belonging to the larger set of activities defined as political participation.