Engagement and Likeability of Negative Messages on Facebook during Israel's 2013 Elections

Tal Samuel-Azran, Moran Yarchi, Gadi Wolfsfeld


To contribute to the mapping of negative campaigns effects, this study examines the engagement (shares and comments) and likeability (likes) effects of negative campaigning strategies on Facebook during Israel's 2013 elections. The analysis shows that attacks, contrasts, and responses to negative messages are highly shared and commented on, illustrating the engaging nature of negative campaigning in Israel. In terms of likeability, results were mixed, as responses to negative messages were more liked than other messages, but attacks and contrasts were not. The 20 most-liked posts were analyzed and responses of the leader of the religious party Habayit HaYehudi to alleged attacks against modern orthodoxy attracted likes in dramatic numbers, riling followers who objected to the growing tensions between religious and secular Jews in Israel. The study provides the first mapping of the effects of an online negative campaign in Israel and illuminates the relevance of its political and religious context, particularly Israel’s polarized multi-party system and religious, democratic nature.   

Full Text:



Alexa Top 500 Global Sites (2014). Retrieved from http://www.alexa.com/topsites

Ansolabehere, S., & Iyengar, S. (1995). Going negative: How attack ads shrink and polarize the electorate (Vol. 8). New York: Free Press.

Ansolabehere, S., Iyengar, S., Simon, A., & Valentino, N. (1994). Does attack advertising demobilize the electorate? American Political Science Review, 88(4), 829-838.

Bender, A. (2012, April 9). HaAvoda al HaLaykim LeNetanyahu: Ze metzag shav. NRG. Retrieved from http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/356/323.html.

Berger, J. (2011). Arousal increases social transmission of information, Psychological Science, 22(7), 891-893.

Berger, J., & Milkman, K. L. (2012). What makes online content viral?, Journal of Marketing Research, 49(2), 192-205.

Brader, T. (2005). Striking a responsive chord: How political ads motivate and persuade voters by appealing to emotions. American Journal of Political Science, 49(2), 388-405.

Caspi, D. (1996). American-Style Electioneering in Israel: Americanization versus Modernization. In D.L. Swanson, and P. Mancni ,Politics, Media and Modern Democracy (Eds.) (pp. 173–192). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Ceron, A. & d'Adda, G. (2015). E-campaigning on Twitter: The effectiveness of distributive promises and negative campaign in the 2013 Italian election. New Media & Society. doi:10.1177/1461444815571915. 

Crigler, A., Just, M., & Belt, T. (2006). The three faces of negative campaigning: The democratic implications of attack ads, cynical news, and fear arousing messages. In D. P. Redlawsk (Ed.), Feelings politics: Emotion in political information processing (pp. XX-YY). New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Druckman, J. N., & McDermott, R. (2008). Emotion and the framing of risky choice. Political Behavior, 30(3), 297-321.

Druckman, J. N., Kifer, M. J., & Parkin, M. (2010). Timeless strategy meets new medium: Going negative on congressional campaign Web sites, 2002–2006. Political Communication, 27(1), 88-103.

Facebook (2014). Facebook reports fourth quarter and full year 2013 results. Retrieved from http://investor.fb.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=821954.

Finkel, S. E., & Geer, J. G. (1998). A spot check: Casting doubt on the demobilizing effect of attack advertising. American Journal of Political Science, 42(2), 573-595.

Fiske, S. T. (1980). Attention and weight in person perception: The impact of negative and extreme behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38(6), 889-906.

Garramone, G. M. (1985). Effects of negative political advertising: The roles of sponsor and rebuttal. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 29(2), 147-159.

Geer, J. G. (2006). In defense of negativity: Attack ads in presidential campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Geer, J. G. (2012). The news media and the rise of negativity in presidential campaigns. Political Science & Politics, 45(3), 422-427.

Goldenberg, R. (2013). The Tweets have died: Why did Twitter service fail in Israel”, Globes. Retrieved from http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1000877218

Haddock, G., & Zanna, M. P. (1997). Impact of negative advertising on evaluations of political candidates: The 1993 Canadian Federal Election. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 19(2), 205-223.

Hansen, K. M., & Pedersen, R. T. (2008). Negative campaigning in a multiparty system. Scandinavian Political Studies, 31(4), 408-427. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9477.2008.00213.x

Johnson-Cartee, K. S., & Copeland, G. (2013). Negative political advertising: Coming of age. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kabir, M., & Urbach, A. (2013, May 21). Facebook exposes: How many Israelis are surfing the social network? Calcalist. Retrieved from http://www.calcalist.co.il/internet/articles/0,7340,L-3602989,00.html (in Hebrew)

Kahana, A. (2014, June 6). Netanyahu and Bennett: Mr. Television against the Facebook Champ. Rotter. Retrieved from http://rotter.net/forum/scoops1/104798.shtml (in Hebrew)

Kanouse, D. E. and Hanson, L. R. Jr. (1971). Negativity in evaluations. In E. E. Jones, D. E. Kanouse, H. H. Kelley, R. E. Nisbett, S. Valins and B. Weiner (Eds.) Attribution: Perceiving the Causes of Behavior (pp. 47–62). Morristown: General Learning Press.

Kern, M. (1989). 30-second politics: Political advertising in the eighties. New York: Praeger.

Lau, R. R., & Brown-Rovner, I. (2009). Negative campaigning. Annual Review of Political Science, 12, 285-306.

Lau, R. R., & Pomper, G. M. (2001). Negative campaigning by US Senate candidates. Party Politics, 7(1), 69-87.

Lau, R. R., Sigelman, L., & Brown-Rovner, I. (2007). The effects of negative political campaigns: a meta‐analytic reassessment. Journal of Politics, 69(4), 1176-1209.

Lau, R. R., Sigelman, L., Heldman, C., & Babbitt, P. (1999). The effects of negative political advertisements: A meta-analytic review. American Political Science Review, 93, 851-875.

Lev-On, A. (2013). Another flew over the digital divide: internet usage in the Arab-Palestinian sector in Israel during municipal election campaigns, 2008. Israel Affairs, 19(1), 154-169.

Malhotra, A., Kubowicz Malhotra, C., & See, A. (2013). How to create brand engagement on Facebook, MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(2), 1-4. Retrieved from http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/how-to-create-brand-engagement-on-facebook/

Maltz, J. (2013, April 3). Israel’s Facebook politician finds that new media comes with a price. Haaretz. Retrieved from http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israel-s-facebook-politician-finds-that-new-media-comes-with-a-price.premium-1.513232.

Marcus, G. E., Neuman, W. R., & MacKuen, M. (2000). Affective intelligence and political judgement. University of Chicago Press.

Melusky, J. A. (2014), Negative campaigning: What Is it, why do they do it, and what difference does it make? National Technology and Social Science Conference, National Science Proceedings, 55(1), 163-174.

Merritt, S. (1984). Negative political advertising: Some empirical findings. Journal of Advertising, 13(3), 27-38.

Nachshoni, K. (2014, September 24). Majority of Israelis support religion-state separation, Ynetnews, Retrieved from http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4574691,00.html

Nissan, Y. (2011, September 6), Israelis spend most time on social networking sites. The Jerusalem Post Online. Retrieved from http://www.jpost.com/Enviro-Tech/Israelis-spend-most-time-on-social-networking-sites

Peri, Y. (2004). Telepopulism: Media and politics in Israel. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Pfau, M., & Kenski, H. C. (1990). Attack politics: Strategy and defense. New York: Praeger.

Pinkleton, B. (1997). The effects of negative comparative political advertising on candidate evaluations and advertising evaluations: An exploration. Journal of Advertising, 26(1), 19-29.

Rahat, G., & Sheafer, T. (2007). The personalization(s) of politics: Israel 1949-2003, Political Communication, 24(1), 65-80. 

Ram, U. (2005). Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the bifurcation of Israel. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 19(1-2), 21-33.

Robinson, M. J. (1981). The media in 1980: Was the message the message? In A. Ranney (Ed.), The American elections of 1980 (pp. 171-211). Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

Roddy, B. L., & Garramone, G. M. (1988). Appeals and strategies of negative political advertising. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 32(4), 415-427.

Roth, A. (2015). ‘Something new begins’ – religious Zionism in the 2013 elections: from decline to political recovery. Israel Affairs, 21(2). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13537121.2015.1008238

Salmore, B. G., & Salmore, S. A. (1989). Candidates, parties, and campaigns. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.

Samuel-Azran, T., Yarchi, M., & Wolfsfeld, G. (2015). Aristotelian rhetoric and Facebook success in Israel’s 2013 election campaign. Online Information Review, 39(2), 149-162.

Shah, D. V., Cho, J., Nah, S., Gotlieb, M. R., Hwang, H., Lee, N. J., Scholl, R. M., & McLeod, D. M. (2007). Campaign ads, online messaging, and participation: Extending the communication mediation model. Journal of Communication, 57(4), 676-703.

Sheafer, T., & Wolfsfeld, G. (2009). Party systems and oppositional voices in the news media: A study of the contest over political waves in the United States and Israel. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 14(2), 146-165.

Skaperdas, S., & Grofman, B. (1995). Modeling negative campaigning. American Political Science Review, 89(1), 49-61.

Strother, D. (1999). Television ads. In D. Perlmutter (Ed.), The Manship School guide to political communication (pp. 186-195). Louisiana: Louisiana University Press.

Taylor, S. E. (1991). Asymmetrical effects of positive and negative events: the mobilization-minimization hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 110(1), 67-85.

Vitak, J., Zube, P., Smock, A., Carr, C. T., Ellison, N., & Lampe, C. (2011). It's complicated: Facebook users' political participation in the 2008 election. CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(3), 107-114.

Walter, A. S., der Brug, W. V., & van Praag, P. (2013). When the stakes are high party competition and negative campaigning. Comparative Political Studies, 47(4), 550-573.

Wolfsfeld, G., Yarchi, M., & Samuel-Azran, T. (2015). Political information repertoires and political participation. New Media & Society. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1461444815580413


  • There are currently no refbacks.

The Journal of Social Media in Society is published by the Texas Social Media Research Institute, based at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas.