Are repeated stories a good strategy in digital political communication?

April 23, 2024

By Weiting Tao, University of Miami; Juliana Fernandes, University of Florida; and Yi Grace Ji, Boston University

In the current political and saturated media environment, people are constantly exposed to messages on controversial sociopolitical issues such as immigration, LGBTQ rights, climate change and racial tension.

These messages can appear in different formats such as a story describing humanistic aspects of an immigrant’s life (i.e., narrative format) or a report listing statistics about undocumented immigration (i.e., numeric format). Because people receive messages via multiple media channels in a day, it is possible that these messages are repeated at different frequencies online (i.e., posted by different media channels or by friends).

In our study, we examined whether narratives become more or less effective than numeric information when people receive issue-related messages at different frequencies on Facebook, a key media platform for digital political communication.

With generous support from the Page Center, we conducted an online experiment among 177 U.S. adults via Amazon Mechanical Turk to address our research goal. We found that overall, Facebook posts designed in a narrative format were more effective in preventing information avoidance, boredom, and counterargumentation than posts designed in a numeric format.

In addition, we discovered that as times of exposure to issue-related posts increased (from one to three repetitions), people had a stronger tendency to avoid information, to counterargue and to experience boredom than when they were exposed only once to the post.

Furthermore, the most interesting insights of our study were when Facebook posts on controversial issues were increasingly repeated (particularly, to three or five times), the advantage of narratives as the post format started to emerge, in comparison to the numeric post format. That is, people found themselves less likely to engage in counterarguing and experience boredom when exposed to narratives, which thereby reduced their intention to avoid issue-related information.

Results of this research offers practical guidance on message design and positioning. Its empirical insights can be helpful for communication professionals, such as journalists, social media specialists, and corporate social responsibility managers, maximizing the power of social media and political communication in bringing attention to the most pressing sociopolitical issues and advocating for positive social changes.

For further information on this study, email Fernandes at, Tao at or Ji at This project was supported by a Page/Johnson Legacy Scholar Grant from the Page Center