Do personality traits drive online commitment to vote in social networks?
AuthorWood, Miguel - Angel
AffiliationComputing and Information Systems
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Miguel - Angel Wood
This study examines social network effects in a community election, and actor attributes effects in fostering commitment to vote behaviour. Across Western societies political participation is in decline posing major challenges for democracy. Since 2000,, political advocacy has undergone a rapid transformation led by a disruptive wave of IT-led innovation in infrastructure, predictive analytics, and online social networks. Political campaigns have harnessed these advances to target, influence, and mobilise partisan voters. Yet is political participation uniform across voters? Network interventions using online social networks and behavioural science are found to increase voter turnout, and reveal individual differences in political behaviour (Bakshy, Messing, & Adamic, 2015; Bond et al., 2012). In particular, extroverted individuals relative to other users may play an enhanced role (Messing, 2015). Our current picture of personality traits and political behaviour is largely offline. Few studies relate to online behaviour (Jordan, Pope, Wallis, & Iyer, 2015). Studies examine individual responses to general/targeted information against two-step flow communication models (Lazarsfeld, Berelson, & Gaudet, 1948). Yet opinion leaders and social networks still shape individual attitudes and behaviours (Contractor & DeChurch, 2014). How personality traits guide social interactions and social influence online during an election is unclear. In this research we examine the interaction of personality traits, internal political efficacy and human social motives to enact social influence during a community election. Our research model investigates whether personality traits drive commitment to vote behaviour by eliciting implementation intentions using an online vote plan. The attribute of gender, often ignored, is incorporated to determine influence processes operating within the network. Prior online political network analysis has relied on data collected from third-party platforms intended for other purposes. We overcome this limitation using a novel, mobile-first, social media app operating as a social network to better connect community members to political information, increase engagement, and improve transparency. The app enables unobtrusive data collection based on voluntary user interaction with online information. The app is supported by scalable graph-database architecture for behaviour tracking, real-time analytics, and increased granularity. All attribute-validated measurement instruments for personality traits, internal political efficacy, and commitment to vote are integrated into the app with only single responses recorded along with demographic information for each user. To understand how an individual’s attributes and their relationships with others affect commitment to vote, we adopt an Autologistic actor attribute model (ALAAM), a social influence model for statistical analysis of observed network data. With political disengagement endemic across Western democracies, new interventions that mitigate, or turn around current trends, are highly valued. Beyond political network analysis, social network research opportunities in national and international economic, institutional, and community settings exist. By deepening our understanding of small world interactions we hope to respond to the collective challenge of restoring the link between the meaning and purpose of voting, and help reinvigorate democracy.
KeywordsPersonality traits; Social networks; Social influence; Political network behaviour; Internal political efficacy; Implementation intentions; Elections; Information systems; Digital artefact; Autologistic actor attribute model
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