Like, Recommend, or Respect? Altering Political Behavior in News Comment Sections

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comment sections, digital media, interactivity, news, stereotype content model

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Drawing from the stereotype content model, we examine how people respond to likeminded and counter-attitudinal political comments appearing after a news article. We experimentally test how citizens behave when they are able to click on one of three different buttons posted next to others’ comments—“Like,” “Recommend,” or “Respect.” In the experiment, political attitudes predicted button clicking, but the button label affected the strength of the relationship. In some instances, people clicked on fewer buttons associated with likeminded comments and more buttons associated with counter-attitudinal comments when the button was labeled with “Respect” as opposed to “Like” or “Recommend.” The pattern of results for the “Recommend” button differed across two issues. The results suggest that political comments can trigger stereotypical reactions. Although the “Like” button is well known, news organizations interested in promoting less partisan behaviors should consider using a “Respect” button rather than the “Like” or “Recommend” button in comment sections.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

New Media and Society, v. 19, issue 11, p. 1727-1743.