Modern democracies are built around the idea of representation: the electorate is represented, and perhaps more importantly, should feel represented. Yet recent decades have been marked by a growing gap between citizens and the political system. The emergence of new, more direct communication channels such as social media gave rise to expectations that the two sides can be brought closer together. This study investigates whether a connection with politicians and parties via social media platforms can enhance citizens’ feelings of being represented by a certain politician or party (dyadic representation), or by the entire parliament (collective representation). Our data come from a two-year panel study, covering four Israeli elections. Findings demonstrate that passive (receiving political information), but not active (producing political information) connection increases dyadic representation perceptions. Collective representation perceptions, by contrast, were not affected by either type of connection. Furthermore, our analysis does not demonstrate a reverse causal order; we did not find evidence supporting the idea that representation perceptions influence connection with politicians or parties. The upshot of our findings is that unidirectional communication between politicians and citizens on social media can foster citizens’ feelings of being represented in the political arena and of closeness with the political elites. That said, such effects were obtained only with regard to dyadic representation and are therefore limited in scope. The study contributes to the ongoing theoretical debate concerning the complex relations between new technologies, citizens, and political elites.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Israeli science foundation [2315/18].
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- Social media
- contact with politicians