Persuading the digital voters

Exploring how political entities use social media to persuade different segments of voters

The majority of voters now receive their politics-related information on social media. This content can come from politicians, political parties, friends and other voters. Most of this communication is persuasive in nature, but some of it focuses instead on developing understanding.

This study looks at the effectiveness of user-generated information and content, as well as the information and content generated by political entities in persuading voters and changing attitudes.

This work considers two models for persuasion:

  • The Elaboration Likelihood Model
  • The Theory of Communicative Action

The Elaboration Likelihood Model proposes two routes to persuasion. The central route implies that when receivers are motivated and able to process information, the likelihood of elaboration is high and persuasion occurs through argument quality or strength. If the receivers are unable or lack motivation to process information, persuasion is likely to occur via the peripheral route, such as source credibility, style, attractiveness, etc. This project’s hypothesis development is largely guided by the Elaboration Likelihood Model.

The Theory of Communicative Action differentiates between strategic and communicative actions. While strategic actions are purposive and success oriented, communicative actions intend to develop understanding and coordination.

The methods undertaken include netnography, experiment and survey. These methods will be used to explore variables such as:

  • Argument quality/strength
  • Source credibility
  • Source style
  • Post popularity
  • Post attractiveness


Investigate the various communication cues that lead to attitude change in voters on social media

Explore the impact of user and political entity generated content, and strategic and communicative actions

Understanding the role of various situational, personal, message and source-based factors on persuasion

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PhD opportunities

This area of research provides the opportunity for an existing PhD project. You’lll be undertaking online content analysis (netnography) of political social media, surveying voters, and creating and running experiments with different social media posts.

To find out more and to discuss your options, contact project lead, Paul, on the details below.

Volunteer participation

If you’d like to take part in this research by completing a survey and online choice-based experiments, please contact project lead, Paul, on the details below.

Contact Dr Paul Harrigan

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