Aristotelian rhetoric and Facebook success in Israel’s 2013 election campaign

Published date13 April 2015
Date13 April 2015
AuthorTal Samuel-Azran,Moran Yarchi,Gadi Wolfsfeld
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Information behaviour & retrieval
Aristotelian rhetoric and
Facebook success in Israels
2013 election campaign
Tal Samuel-Azran, Moran Yarchi and Gadi Wolfsfeld
Sammy Ofer School of Communications,
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Herzliya, Israel
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the mapping of the social media discourse
involving politicians and their followers during election campaigns, the authors examined Israeli
politiciansAristotelian rhetoric on Facebook and its reception during the 2013 elections campaign.
Design/methodology/approach The authors examined the Aristotelian rhetorical strategies used
by Israeli politicians on their Facebook walls during the 2013 elections, and their popularity with social
media users.
Findings Ethos was the most prevalent rhetorical strategy used. On the reception front, pathos-based
appeals attracted the most likes. Finally, the results point to some discrepancy between politicians
campaign messages and the rhetoric that actually gains social media usersattention.
Research limitations/implications The findings indicate that Israels multi-party political
system encourages emphasis on candidatescredibility (ethos) in contrast to the prevalence of emotion
(pathos) in typical election campaigns in two-party systems like the USA. One possible explanation is
the competitive nature of elections in a multi-party system where candidates need to emphasise their
character and distinct leadership abilities.
Practical implications Politicians and campaign managers are advised to attend to the potential
discrepancy between politiciansoutput and social media userspreferences, and to the effectiveness of
logos-based appeals.
Originality/value The study highlights the possible effect of the party system on politiciansonline
rhetoric in social media election campaigns.
Keywords Elections, Rhetoric, Aristotelian, Ethos, Logos, Pathos
Paper type Research paper
With the rise of social networking sites, and particularly Facebooks inception in 2004,
these social media platforms became hubs of political discourse during election campaigns
(Kushin and Yamamoto, 2010). The 2008 US presidential race was even labell by some
the worlds first Facebook election(Fraser and Dutta, 2008; Woolley et al., 2010).
Subsequently studies have increasingly tried to understand and map the rhetoric that
dominates politiciansonline messages as well as citizensreception of these messages
(e.g. Robertson et al., 2010; Strandberg, 2013). So far they have produced mixed results, with
some indicating a deep, issue-based discourse surrounding political events, particularly
within politically oriented groups such as students (Fernandes et al., 2010), while others
have revealed superficial and entertainment-based exchanges between politicians and their
followers (English et al., 2011; Erikson, 2008). After identifying that both Obamasand
Romneys online Aristotelian rhetoric on Facebook during the 2012 election campaign
centred on emotional messages (pathos), Bronstein (2013) went as far as to argue that US
politicians use Facebook to advance fandom rather than to promote serious discourse.
To contribute to the mapping of politicians and online political discourse on social
media networks during elections, we apply Bronsteins (2013) Aristotelian rhetoric
Online Information Review
Vol. 39 No. 2, 2015
pp. 149-162
©Emerald Group Publis hing Limited
DOI 10.1108/OIR-11-2014-0279
Received 30 November 2014
First revision approved
18 January 2015
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Israels 2013

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