Motivations for participating in 'viral politics': A qualitative case study of Twitter users and the 2012 US presidential election

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies


This study explores the rationales by which citizens both embrace and resist the notion of using peer-to-peer digital platforms to circulate persuasive political messages. Drawing upon 25 in-depth interviews with US adults who used Twitter to link to the popular YouTube video Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up? I discuss the extent to which they imagine their online activities to be potentially influencing others in certain desired ways and thus constituting an instrumental form of political participation. The resulting analysis focuses on the complex and uneasy relationship between this media-spreading activity and a marketing-like model that positions social media users as microlevel participants in aggregate campaigns to shape public opinion. While some who engage in this activity enthusiastically embrace goals of persuasion, others opt for alternative conceptual frameworks, such as fostering citizenship by informing others and sparking deliberative dialogue, that seemingly avoid the manipulative connotations of political marketing.



Published Citation

Penney, J. (2016) “Motivations for Participating in Viral Politics: A Qualitative Case Study of Twitter Users and the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election,” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 22(1), 71-87.