Political content from virtual ‘friends’
How influencers arouse young women’s political interest via parasocial relationships
Keywords:parasocial relationships, influencers, political interest, young adults, source trustworthiness, source similarity
Influencers have been at the center point of many studies in the past few years, which have investigated how they draw followers’ attention to products and brands. However, despite influencers’ growing communication of political topics, literature on their political impact is scarce. Using the concept of parasocial relationships, this study explores to what extent imaginary bonds held with influencers facilitate arousal of followers’ political interest. For this purpose, a cross-sectional online survey of N = 1312 female participants was conducted. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze the relationships between the latent variables. Results showed that source similarity and trustworthiness predicted parasocial relationships, which were in turn positively related with arousal of political interest. Moreover, source similarity emerged as an important determinant of arousal of political interest. These findings indicate that influencers may raise interest for topics beyond lifestyle and entertainment, via similarities to and close bonds held with followers.
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