Anaëlle J. Gonzalez

KU Leuven

Desiree Schmuck

KU Leuven

Laura Vandenbosch

KU Leuven


Gonzalez, A., Schmuck, D., & Vandenbosch, L. (2023). Posting and framing politics: a content analysis of celebrities’, athletes’, and influencers’ Instagram political content. Information, Communication & Society, Online First.


Instagram and its famous personae are nowadays an important news source for many users, which may stem from celebrities’ and influencers’ repeated engagement with political topics on their otherwise entertainment- or lifestyle-oriented accounts. Yet, to date, no study has systematically investigated the type and framing of this political content. This content analysis examined 1,256 Instagram posts and 2,936 stories of the 59 most popular opinion leaders (20 sports celebrities, 20 artistic celebrities and 19 influencers) in Western countries, and documented, for the first time, the prevalence of types of political topics and their framing. Results from multilevel analyses suggest that influencers and sports celebrities are more likely to post lifestyle-oriented political topics, while artistic celebrities engage more with conventional topics. Moreover, political topics appear more often in ephemeral than permanent content. Generic frames were overall rare, but the most dominant frame of political content was the human impact frame.

Open Science Framework


Social media influencers



Social media – Instagram

Political information – news



Quantitative manual content analysis

Multilevel analysis



Main findings


Political content was present on the Instagram posts and stories of celebrities, athletes and influencers but it was a relatively small proportion of their overall content.


Celebrities were more likely to post politics on their social media than athletes and social media influencers, but athletes and influencers were not much different from each other. This may be due to influencers’ and athletes’ dependence on sponsorships and brand partnerships, and the potential risk of losing followers and collaborations if they post controversial political content.


Even when they all posted about politics, there were differences in what they posted about: Athletes and influencers were more likely to post lifestyle politics, while celebrities were more likely to engage in formal political topics.
Athletes’ and influencers’ preference for lifestyle topics may be due to their communication styles, as they tend to disclose more private aspects of their lives compared to celebrities. This aligns with lifestyle topics which are, by nature, about the politicization of one’s lifestyle values and choices. Such topics also allow for more malleability and consistent integration with influencers’ self-branding around authenticity, while allowing the audience to connect to the topics through their subjective experiences.
Celebrities, on the other hand, have closer relationships with traditional media and institutions, which may explain the higher occurrence of formal topics in their content. They also benefit from stronger social capital and elevated social status, making them ideal endorsers in times of elections.


There were no significant differences in the use of frames between the three groups (celebrities, influencers, and athletes), except for the ‘attribution of responsibility’ frame, which was more commonly used by celebrities.
However, the frames we investigated, which originate from journalistic studies, were overall quite low in prevalence, meaning that social media personalities seem to talk differently about politics than journalists and news media. Social media platforms like Instagram, which are driven by images, may encourage a different approach to framing.


The social media personalities preferred to post political content on their stories more than in their permanent feed. This may be because stories allow for more spontaneous and risky content and may provide some semblance of security from the fear of backlash and negative comments from their audience, as the content disappears after 24 hours.
Posting politics in stories may also remove the burden of having to permanently fixing a political dimension or political topic to their public persona, as it is generally considered that the content of one’s feed much fully align with and be reflective of one’s identity and interests.


There were also significant differences between our male and female sample, not in the prevalence of political content but in the posted topics: Women were more likely to post formal political content compared to men. This may be related to concerns over the re-election of the Trump administration during the 2020 US elections, as women’s rights were especially salient during this campaign.

Gonzalez, A., Schmuck, D., & Vandenbosch, L. (2023). Posting and framing politics: a content analysis of celebrities’, athletes’, and influencers’ Instagram political content. Information, Communication & Society, Online First.

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