New York– Unlike US President Donald Trump and other established world leaders, not-so-popular political candidates who share humorous or funny puns on their social media handles to woo followers can actually lose trust and credibility, a significant study has revealed.
Political candidates’ use of humour on social media like Twitter could sometimes backfire on them with potential supporters, said researchers from Ohio State University.
The results showed that people were more likely to view messages using humour as inappropriate for a political candidate they didn’t know.
That led participants to rate a candidate using humour as less credible than one who didn’t – and less likely to get their vote.
“Candidates should be cautious about using humour on social media,” said Olivia Bullock, co-author of the study.
“People have expectations that politicians will show seriousness and competence even on social media, where users are often encouraged to be more informal”.
In this study, people reacted to posts from a fictitious candidate, so there was no prior knowledge of the candidate.
“It is possible that the rules may be different for politicians – like Trump or Elizabeth Warren – who are already known,” said study co-author Austin Hubner.
“For candidates who aren’t well-known, using humour may be more of a risk than for established politicians,” Hubner added in a paper published in the journal Communication Research Reports.
The study involved 476 college students who viewed a profile of a fictitious political candidate on Twitter.
The candidate’s name was Alex Smith. No political party was given for the candidate.
The Twitter profiles contained five tweets pertaining to infrastructure, education, voting and campaign donations.
Half of the participants saw straightforward tweets on the issue, while the other half saw tweets that used puns to send the same message.
Results showed that participants who read the tweets using humour were more likely than those who read the standard tweets to say the messages were not appropriate for an individual running for public office and that they were surprised that the candidate sent them.
As a result, candidates who used humour in their tweets were deemed less credible.
Bullock noted that the participants in the study were all college students and results may be different in other demographic groups.
Overall, the findings suggest that candidates should be mindful of their audience on social media, particularly when they’re first starting out. (IANS)