UvA researchers: online influencing is effective for voting

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Tailor-made messages from, for example, political parties that respond to your personality can have an effect. That is the most important outcome of years of research by the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

This so-called political microtargeting will probably also play a role for the first time in next year’s parliamentary elections, campaign experts expect.

The scientists at the UvA have discovered with the help of two experiments that people can be sent in a certain direction when they read a politically oriented advertisement on social media.

Floating dialer

“It is not the case that you can have a VVD member vote for GroenLinks,” says researcher Tom Dobber. But luring a floating right-wing voter to the VVD seems to be possible, adds colleague and principal researcher Brahim Zarouali. “Microtargeting could perhaps be the final push, the push that is needed to choose a particular party.”

The scientists discovered this by having their subjects write a message on a self-made social medium that resembles Facebook. With a small program they could analyze these texts and thus find out the personality types of people.

“There are certain words that are strongly linked to extroverts and other words that belong to introverts,” says Dobber. “The algorithm knows that and then divides those people into groups.”

The literature indicates that introverts are more sensitive to messages with fear as an undertone, the researchers explain. Extroverts react more strongly to enthusiastic messages.

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