The phantom effect of social media: the impact of no “likes” on politicians’ responsiveness to public opinion

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/Debate


Popularity metrics, such as “likes” are key features in social media (SM). In the political sphere, politicians use popularity metrics as indicators of the extent to which opinions and agendas are widely held by the public. However, popularity metrics have an inherent potential to increase rapidly, making today’s not-so-popular content tomorrow’s potential hit. Hence the lack of popularity indices or their low values may not indicate the full popularity potential of any specific SM content. This is crucial for politicians as they aim to identify and respond to popular public opinions in their constant effort to boost and maintain public support. Considering SM’s ever-growing role in politics, and the significant portion of SM content with no popularity metrics, exploring politicians’ responsiveness to public opinion in SM with and without popularity metrics may shed light on contemporary democratic process and their impact on representation and policy making. Based on Prospect Theory of choice under uncertainty, and the lack of an anchor to base their perception of popularity on, we claim that politicians will be more responsive to public opinion content without “likes” than with “likes.” Findings of a survey-experiment of 100 Israeli politicians support this claim. Possible implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-357
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Information Technology and Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Taylor & Francis.


  • Facebook
  • Popularity metrics
  • Public opinion
  • Representation
  • Responsiveness
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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