Social media use and support for populist radical right parties: assessing exposure and selection effects in a two-wave panel study
Vote shares for populist radical right parties (PRRPs) have increased considerably in recent years, and this advancement of PRRPs has been attributed in part to social media. We assess the affinity between social media and populist radical right parties by examining a) whether more frequent social media use for news enhances the willingness to vote for a PRRP (exposure effect) as well as b) whether individuals who have voted for a PRRP in the past use social media more frequently to access news (selection effect). To address these research questions, we analysed data of a two-wave survey study that was conducted in Germany, focusing on the party Alternative for Germany (AfD). Binary logistic regression highlighted that social media use increased the likelihood of supporting the AfD. Pre-registered multinominal analyses, however, showed that this effect was driven by specific party comparisons. That is, using the AfD as a reference category, social media use reduced intentions to vote for parties that expressed similar positions as the AfD on the issue of immigration and with which the PRRP competes over votes. Social media selection effects were not supported.