Users’ Political Motivations in Comment Sections on News Sites

Patrick Zerrer, Ines Engelmann


The Internet has transformed individual political participation. Based on our theoretical framework, we assume that user comments can be regarded as forms of political participation from which conclusions can be drawn about users’ political motivations such as identity, emotions, morality, and agency. In a manual quantitative content analysis of 300 user comments of the comment sections of four German news sites, we identified types of user comments on the basis of perceptible political motivations. A subsequent cluster analysis shows that the identified motivations occur in combination. We classify six different clusters of user comments based on these motivations: moral-friendly, objective, emotional-moral believing, angry-left-liberal, angry-conservative, and angry-lone-fighter. Further analyses of motivations and types of user comments by left- and right-leaning news sites reveal clear differences in the occurrence of negative emotions, individual and collective morality, and agency. The angry-conservative and angry-lone-fighter clearly predominate on right-leaning media, and emotional-moral believing and angry-left-liberal on left-leaning media.


user comments, political participation, political motivations, digitally networked participation, social identity model of collective action

Full Text: