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Asian Communication Research - Vol. 21, No. 1

[ Original Research ]
Asian Communication Research - Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 143-163
Abbreviation: ACR
ISSN: 1738-2084 (Print) 2765-3390 (Online)
Print publication date 30 Apr 2024
Received 27 Aug 2023 Revised 15 Mar 2024 Accepted 03 Apr 2024
https://doi.org/10.20879/acr.2024.21.011

Publics’ Motivations for Sharing Public Policy Promotions on Social Media and Their Impacts on Publics’ Sharing Behavior
Joonghwa Lee1 ; Gunwoo Yoon2 ; Hannah G. Scheffer-Wentz3 ; Taejun (David) Lee4
1Department of Communication, University of North Dakota
2Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, University of Northern Iowa
3Department of Communication, University of North Dakota
4KDI (Korea Development Institute) School of Public Policy and Management

Correspondence to Taejun (David) Lee254, Namsejong-ro, Sejong-si, Republic of Korea Email: davidtjlee@gmail.com


Copyright ⓒ 2024 by the Korean Society for Journalism and Communication Studies
Funding Information ▼

Abstract

Social media have allowed public policies to be widely shared between governments and publics. South Korea is one of the leading countries in this e-government effort. Through the uses and gratifications perspective and theory of reasoned action, this study identified Korean publics’ motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media and examined how they are related to their affective and behavioral responses. In Study 1, two separate online surveys with 1,200 and 500 Korean adults were conducted, respectively. An exploratory factor analysis was performed with the first survey and identified five motivations: philanthropism, social participation, social status, pursuing correct information, and informative values. In Study 2, another online survey with 1,000 Korean adults was conducted to test the relationships between the five motivations and attitudes, subjective norms, and behavioral intention related to sharing public policy promotions. The results indicated that philanthropism and social status were positively related to attitudes, and social status and pursuing correct information were positively related to subjective norms. Additionally, both attitudes and subjective norms were positively related to behavioral intention. This study can provide implications for governments to use social media as multi-directional channel to better promote public policies.


Keywordssharing motivation, public policy promotion sharing, public policy promotions on social media, uses and gratifications, theory of reasoned action

Government-public relations have traditionally resembled a top-down approach (Osborne, 1993; Ritchie, 2014; Shah et al., 2011). While elected officials serve as representatives of the public in democratic societies, it is not common for publics to actively participate in policy-making and promotion processes (Bingham et al., 2005; Evans & Campos, 2013). It was not until the development of information communication technology (ICT) and the Internet that e-government literatures and efforts focused on the publics’ convenience in accessing government information and services (e.g., Ceesay & Bojang, 2020; Charalabidis & Loukis, 2012; Criado et al., 2013; Mansoor, 2021).

The move to open government has been expedited through the utilization of social media by sharing public policy promotions. Public policies can be promoted as various types of messages such as news, short videos, advertisements, publicities, and public service announcements (PSAs; Bertot et al., 2012; Charalabidis & Loukis, 2012). Therefore, public policy promotions in this study refer to messages generated by governments or news media aiming to raise awareness, knowledge, and support for specific public policies directly related to regulations, laws in our society, and public opinions among general public, stakeholders, or target audience (E. H. Lee & Lee, 2021, Oginni & Moitui, 2015). Although in the past, the public did not pay much attention to public policies and was not actively engaged with them (Bode, 2017; Prior, 2019), recently, due to the more dynamic and interactive social media environment, people are increasingly willing to participate in the consumption and promotion of public policies, epscially focusing on community relations and problem solving (Gong et al., 2022; Kim, 2020; Lin & Kant, 2021; Simonofski et al., 2021). Not only do citizens have the ability to view government information, but they can also respond and share it with other users through their feeds, groups, and direct messaging on social media. E-government has since shifted its interest to improving the interactions through strategic communication with publics’ responses to public policies and government information (E. H. Lee & Lee, 2021; J. B. Lee & Porumbescu, 2019; Medaglia & Zheng, 2017; Mellouli et al., 2014). With open access and transactional communication pathways, citizens are no longer passive audiences, but possess the ability to be active stakeholders in public policies through sharing, liking, and commenting government content. Nonetheless, little empirical studies have been completed to understand social media use from the publics’ perspectives explaining why publics may share or not share public policy promotions on social media.

To bridge this gap, a two-part study was employed. First, insights in publics’ motivations for sharing public policy promotions can be drawn from a perspective of uses and gratifications (U&G; Katz, 1959). The U&G approach views the audience as autonomous individuals and active consumers of information and media use instead of passive receivers (Kaye & Johnson, 2002; J. Lee & Lee, 2012; Sangwan, 2005; Whiting & Williams, 2013). Second, by incorporating those motivations with the theory of reasoned action (TRA; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980), this study can predict the impacts of those motivations on publics’ attitudinal and behavioral outcomes of public policy promotions.

According to the UN E-Government Knowledgebase (2022), Korea is ranked third out of 193 countries in terms of the 2022 E-Government Development Index, indicating Korea as a leading country regarding e-government. Moreover, social media has been an important channel for government organizations to communicate with the publics (Medaglia & Zheng, 2017) and Korea is among the top countries in terms of social media usage (Concannon, 2023). Thus, Korea is a strategic example in this study to understand publics’ responses to the government’s efforts to utilize social media to promote public policies.

The present study seeks to investigate what motivates Korean publics to share public policy promotions on social media and how different motivations are related to their attitudes and behaviors. The findings of this study would not only further expand the application of U&G and TRA, but they would also have relevance with online information sharing systems and strategic communication for governments. Additionally, the knowledge of why publics share public policy promotions on social media can help both policymakers and researchers predict publics’ attitudes toward, and behaviors with, social media.


STUDY 1
Public Policy Promotions on Social Media

The rise of social media through user popularity, algorithm development, and audience reach has expanded from online interpersonal communication with friends and acquaintances to a public hub of information with multiple sectors including government municipalities (Charalabidis & Loukis, 2012; Criado et al., 2013; Hubert et al., 2020). Utilizing ICT through social media, governments can highlight important topics, engage with citizens, hold public forms, and use innovative, creative ways to provide resources (Criado et al., 2013; Khasawneh & Abu-Shanab, 2013). Additionally, governments can present a more participatory platform between citizens, consider multiple stakeholders for decisionmaking, address challenges, and even recruit prospective employees through social media (Hofmann, 2014). Governments frequently share promotional content on social media by using different message formats (e.g., news, publicity, and video), including public policy information, announcements, directives, circulators, and executive orders to keep publics informed (Bertot et al., 2012).

However, there are challenges that come with publics sharing public policy promotions on social media. Hofmann (2014) conducted a study on German government s and municipalities and found that although 70% of the participants were active on at least one social media platform, there were concerns regarding public policy promotions and government information due to data privacy regulations, such as responding directly to citizens’ comments. Additionally, this study showed publics’ hesitancy of only sharing “soft topics” in an effort not to spark controversy, therefore sticking with reports, announcements, and informative posts.

It is important to acknowledge that individuals may have multiple reasons for whether they choose to share public policy promotions on social media. The following section will discuss the uses and gratifications, which can serve as a theoretical framework to understand individuals’ policy promotion sharing motivations.

Motivations for Sharing Public Policy Promotions on Social Media: Uses and Gratifications

U&G observes the relationship between media and audience motivations focusing on what people do with media, instead of what media do to people (Katz, 1959; Katz et al., 1973). Specifically, U&G aims to answer the psychological desires and motivations for users to utilize media for different types of gratifications through medium selection and saturation (Ferris et al., 2021; Ham et al., 2019; J. Lee & Lee, 2012; McQuail, 1984; Ruggiero, 2000; Vincent & Basil, 1997; Wang, 2021). As audience members are autonomous individuals, this brings attention to not only the content of media consumption, but the channel they select to satisfy various motivations (Kaye & Johnson, 2002; J. Lee & Lee, 2012; Sangwan, 2005; Whiting & Williams, 2013). While originally theorized for traditional media, such as radio and television, broader applications have been researched, including mobile devices (e.g., Ha et al., 2015; Menon, 2022), the world wide web (WWW;(e.g., Ebersole, 2000; Pinto & Poornananda, 2017), and social media (e.g., Dolan et al., 2016; Park et al., 2009; Urista et al., 2009).

There are two main components to U&G: uses and gratifications (Katz et al., 1973; Palmgreen, 1984). Uses highlight the active audience, unlike the passive audience, who is considered the target receivers of the content by media selected by senders. Active audience possesses the ability or control to not only choose the content they consume but dictate the medium housing that material (Diddi & LaRose, 2006). Distinctly, this makes the active audience more involved in processing media content or message with higher stakes compared to a passive audience member ingesting media that are presented to them (Dolan et al., 2016). The gratifications are the fulfillment achieved through the choice of media outlets that satisfy both emotional and cognitive needs (J. Lee & Lee, 2012).

In the context of public policy promotions on social media, the U&G perspective provides the optimal framework to understand the motivations for publics to share government messages such as public policy promotions on social media, thus contributing to better public engagement and policy distribution.

A distinctive function of social media, compared to other types of media, is the sharing function. Not only are users message receivers, but also senders disseminating the message to other users (Hosen et al., 2021; Zimba et al., 2020). While different types of social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, have various content, algorithm, and models, rarely will users interact with a single social media platform, even if the majority of their needs are met. Rather, social media have evolved into an ecosystem, where users simultaneously have accounts on multiple platforms (Ham et al., 2019). Instead of committing to a single platform, users choose to toggle social media platforms based on various motivations. Previous research has identified motivations for social media use, such as convenience (Choi et al., 2016), information (Johnson & Yang, 2009), relaxation (Papacharissi & Mendelson, 2011), entertainment (Dolan et al.,2016), selfpreservation (Ihm & Kim, 2018), and political activism (Park et al., 2009).

Considerable research attention has been devoted to identifying the motivations behind sharing content on social media. Previous studies have consistently focused on motivations such as social connection and emotional interaction (Ham et al., 2019; C. S. Lee & Ma, 2012; Munar & Jacobsen, 2014). Some scholars, on the other hand, identify various other factors as key drivers of sharing news on social media, including social responsibility (Ahmed, 2023), informing and critiquing others (Kim et al., 2021), and anticipated benefits such as reputation. M. Lee et al. (2019) identified the motivations of Korean participants sharing marketer-generated content (MGC) as brand support, entertainment, economic rewards, and self-presentation. However, the contexts of these motivations (e.g., sharing branded content and news information) differ from the context of public policy promotions. While sharing branded content and news information serves to inform or promote products or ideas, public policy promotions directly guide actions that pertain to laws and regulations, influencing societal behaviors and compliance. Therefore, it is important to explore the motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media through the lens of U&G to gain a better understanding of how and why publics consume public policy promotions. As public policy promotions encompass any publicly accessible content featuring regulations, laws and policies, and public opinions (e.g., press releases from a government agency; Oginni & Moitui, 2015), it is possible that there are different motivations that reflect these message characteristics compared to previous social media content sharing motivations (e.g., Ham et al., 2019; Kim et al., 2021; C. S. Lee & Ma, 2012; M. Lee et al., 2019; Thompson et al., 2020). To fill the gap in the literature that explores why publics choose to share public policy promotions on social media, this study asks the first research question:

  • RQ1: What motivates publics to share public policy promotions on social media?

METHOD

This study conducted two separate online surveys. First, in order to develop measurement items of motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media, an online survey was conducted with an open-ended question asking the following question: “What makes you share public policy promotions (e.g., media content regarding the changes in education policies) with your friends or family on social media?” Next, a second online survey was conducted to identify publics’ specific motivations for sharing public policy promotions based on the results of the first online survey. This examined the relationship between publics’ motivations and their affective and behavioral outcomes. All participants read a standard consent form and informed consent was obtained at the beginning of each online survey. Informed consent procedure was approved by the ethics committee as data were collected anonymously. After agreeing to the informed consent form, participants read a statement clarifying the motivations for sharing public policy promotions: “The main focus of this study is to understand the reasons behind utilizing various sharing functions, such as ‘copy and paste’ of interesting content or links on social networking services (SNS), as well as pressing the ‘share’ button on SNS to disseminate or share public policies.”

Participants
First Online Survey

A total of 1,200 Korean adults participated in this survey. Participants’ ages ranged from 19 to 38 years (M = 28.45, SD = 4.78). 50% of participants were female. Over half of participants (54.4%) resided in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province. 78.6% of participants are attending a 4-year college or have a bachelor’s degree. 55.6% of participants reported less than US $4,000 as a household monthly income.

Second Online Survey

A total of 500 Korean adults participated in this study, who did not participate in the first online survey. Participants’ ages ranged from 21 to 78 years (M = 44.65, SD = 14.08). Half of participants were females. Over half of participants (53%) resided in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province. A majority of participants (84.6%) are attending a 4-year college or have a bachelor’s degree. Finally, 59.4% of participants reported less than US $4,000 as a household monthly income.

Measures
First Online Survey: Motivations for Sharing Public Policy Promotions on Social Media

Participants were allowed to submit up to three answers to the question: “What makes you to share public policy promotions (e.g., education policy, real estate policy, and transportation policy promotion) with your friends or family on social media?” After removing incomplete answers, a total of 1,870 answers about motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media were collected. Following the qualitative content analysis process, two coders completed coder training sessions based on the provided codebook. After coders achieved the 90% of inter-coder reliability, they coded all answers separately. This qualitative content analysis found 17 categories with 80 items in terms of the motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media.

Second Online Survey: Motivation Scales

Measurement items for sharing motivations were created from the responses to the openended question used in the first online survey. In addition to the first online survey results, a review of previous studies on social media sharing motivations was conducted. As a result of the literature review, one category with five motivation items related to public policy promotions was adopted, such as “Because it makes myself look cool” and “It helps me to gain status when sharing news stories” (e.g., Ham et al., 2019; C. S. Lee & Ma, 2012). As a result, 18 motivation categories regarding sharing public policy promotions on social media were identified with a total of 85 measurement items: information distribution, convenience, communication, awareness, pursuing correct information, expressing opinions, predicting the future, speed, public policy evaluation, curiosity, it matters to me/my life, caring, public opinion, enjoyment, information ownership, social issue, public policy participation, and social status. These 85 items were measured by 7-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (7).

Results
RQ1: Motivations for Sharing Public Policy Promotions on Social Media

The first research question asked what motivates publics to share public policy promotions on social media. To identify the motivations for sharing public policy promotions, an exploratory factor analysis (EFA), using the principal axis factoring extraction with Varimax rotation, was run over the 85 initial items. To select items to be included in each factor, two criteria were applied: 1) a cut point of factor loading of .50 or higher and 2) no significant cross loading. After eliminating 45 items, an EFA was conducted again with the remaining 40 items. This analysis generated five factors with 33 items that accounted for 72.48% of the total variance. The five factors are: 1) philanthropism, 2) social participation, 3) social status, 4) pursuing correct information, and 5) informative values. Each factor had an eigenvalue above 1.0. Cronbach alphas of all five factors ranged from .93 to .96. Table 1 summarizes the EFA results.

Table 1.  Results of Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) (Study 1) and Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA; Study 2)

Construct and Indicators Standardized Factor Loading t-value Cronbach's alpha
Motivation construct
(“I share public policy promotions with your friends or family on social media ……….”)
Philanthropism 59.39%a .94
(.93c)
Because I think public policies benefit my friends and family. .91(.71b) 37.10
Because I think new public policies help my friends and family .90 (.72b) 36.63
Because public policies have a direct impact on my life. .88 (.64b) 35.33
Because public policies are related to my life. .85 (.65b) 33.02
Because I wish people don’t have harms by new public policies. .84 (.67b) 32.39
Because I don’t want to have difficulties in my life due to not knowing public policies. .73 (.65b) 26.43
Social participation 6.42%a .97
(.95c)
To explain my thought about public policies. .89 (.64b) 35.88
To express my opinion. .88 (.62b) 35.17
To let people know my interests in public policies. .87 (.50b) 34.65
To express my agreement/disagreement with the given public policies. .87 (.66b) 34.61
Because I’d like to evoke their awareness of public policies. .86 (.52b) 33.75
To express my opinions indirectly. .85 (.63b) 33.55
To monitor public policies as a citizen. .85 (.59b) 33.28
Because I’d like to encourage people’s participation in public policies. .84 (.50b) 32.85
To provide feedback for public policies. .84 (.64b) 32.73
To evaluate public policies. .83 (.66b) 32.14
To contemplate whether public policies are appropriate. .83 (.63b) 32.03
Social status 2.61%a .93
(.93c)
Because I build up my confidence when I share public policies. .92 (.75b) 37.89
Because I look cool when I share public policies. .91 (.79b) 36.95
Because I feel I gain social status when I share public policies. .89 (.84b) 35.80
Because I feel I am important when I share public policies. .80 (.67b) 29.99
Pursuing correct information 2.30%a .96
(.96c)
To evaluate credible information. .93 (.64b) 38.45
To eliminate uncertain information. .92 (.62b) 37.99
To minimize disadvantages caused by fake information. .92 (.69b) 37.88
To avoid confusion with fake news. .89 (.69b) 36.07
To know right information with my friends and family. .88 (.54b) 35.17
Informative values 1.76% .97
(.93c)
Because it is simple to share information. .92 (.57b) 38.03
To obtain various information. .92 (.50b) 37.81
To share new facts and information. .91 (.55b) 37.69
To share useful information. .90 (.62b) 36.80
Because it is easy to access information. .89 (.54b) 36.29
Because it is easy to share information. .89 (.59b) 36.21
To announce information to more people. .89 (.55b) 36.05
Cumulative % of variance 72.48%
Attitudes toward sharing .89
For me to share public policy promotions with my friends or family on social media is (unfavorable–favorable). .92 36.52
For me to share public policy promotions with my friends or family on social media is (bad–good). .87 33.53
For me to share public policy promotions with my friends or family on social media is (negative– positive). .78 28.62
Subjective norms .93
Most people whose opinions I value would think that I should share public policy promotions with my friends or family on social media. .93 38.30
Most people who are important to me would think that I should share public policy promotions with my friends or family on social media. .92 37.46
It is expected of me that I share public policy promotions with my friends or family on social media. .86 33.57
Intention to share .96
I will make an effort to share public policy promotions with my friends or family on social media. .96 40.64
I plan to share public policy promotions with my friends or family on social media. .94 39.18
I intend to share public policy promotions with my friends or family on social media. .92 37.89
χ² (791) = 3547.71, p < .001, χ²/df = 4.49; NFI = .93; CFI = .95; TLI = .94; IFI = .95; RMSEA = .06; SRMR = .04
Note. ***p < .001
a% of variance of EFA results.
bFactor loading of EFA results.
cCronbach's alpha of EFA results

The first factor, “philanthropism”, accounted for 59.39% of the variance with six items. Philanthropism represents publics’ motivations to share public policy promotions on social media by caring and supporting peoples’ benefits, including their own. The second factor, “social participation”, consists of eleven items and explained 6.42% of the variance. This factor reflects publics’ active social involvement with their opinions by sharing public policy promotions on social media. The third factor, “social status”, included four items representing publics’ motivations to seek a better social image or reputation by sharing public policy promotions on social media. This factor accounted 2.61% of the variance. The fourth factor, “pursuing correct information”, accounted for 2.30% of the variance with five items. This factor represents motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media to avoid fake news or obtain credible information. The final factor, “informative values”, reflected publics’ motivations to share public policy promotions on social media to distribute useful information easily. This factor included seven items, explaining 1.76% of the variance.


STUDY 2
Impacts of Motivations on Sharing Public Policy Promotions on Social Media: Theory of Reasoned Action

When an individual’s motivation to engage in a particular behavior is high, they are likely to put substantial efforts in forming attitudes. In other words, people’s attitudes can be influenced by their thoughts and emotions in response to social situations (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). To gain a better comprehension of the motivations behind social sharing or transmission, TRA is employed in the current research as it 1) places greater emphasis on the social and cognitive factors that shape behavioral intentions and 2) offers a broader perspective of the circumstances, reasoning, and factors that influence how attitudes impact behavior (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). Specifically, TRA postulates that an individual’s behavior is primarily shaped by their intentions, which are in turn influenced by their attitudes towards the behavior and subjective norms that exist within their social setting (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). Here, attitudes refer to an individual’s favorable or unfavorable evaluation of a behavior, while subjective norms relate to an individual’s perception of whether the behavior is approved or disapproved by others (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980).

TRA has been widely used in empirical research to predict and understand various types of human behavior in the context of health, proenvironmental, political, and consumer behaviors (e.g., Oliver & Bearden, 1985; Thøgersen & Crompton, 2009; Wolsink, 2007). While TRA has been primarily used in research on individual behavior, past empirical studies have revealed the applicability of TRA in predicting behavior related to public policy issues. For example, Thøgersen and Crompton’s (2009) study on energy conservation found that TRA effectively predicted intentions to engage in energy-saving behavior and that attitudes towards energy conservation and subjective norms were significant predictors of conservation effort. Wolsink’s (2007) study on support for wind power development also indicated that TRA successfully captured intentions to support wind power and that attitudes towards wind power development and subjective norms were meaningful factors of support behavior. Collectively, these studies all embraced the TRA and identified not only the individual factors that can influence behaviors in those various domains, but also captured some context-driven subjective norms that can help policymakers develop more effective social strategies to promote desirable behavior or behavior change.

Therefore, an individual’s intention to share public policy promotions on social media is expected to be influenced by their attitude towards the sharing behavior and an individual’s perception of subjective norms.

  • H1: Publics’ attitudes toward sharing public policy promotions on social media will be positively related to their intention to share public policy promotions on social media.
  • H2: Publics’ subjective norms regarding sharing public policy promotions on social media will be positively related to their intention to share public policy promotions on social media.

TRA posits that people’s attitudes towards a behavior can be influenced by their expected outcomes such as motivations (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Ham et al., 2019). In particular, individuals tend to devote significant effort to forming their attitudes when they are highly motivated to engage in a behavior or to share a message. Thus, it is critical to take into account individuals’ thoughts and feelings about their social situations or context when trying to predict or comprehend their intentions to engage in a behavior. It is expected that publics’ motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media can be positively associated with behavioral intention.

  • H3: Publics’ a) philanthropism, b) social participation, c) social status, d) pursuing correct information, and e) informative values motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social will positively related to their attitudes toward sharing public policy promotions on social media.

Moreover, according to TRA, individuals’ subjective norms, or their perceived social pressure from others to engage or avoid certain behaviors, can be influenced by the perceived behavioral expectations from others (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). In collectivistic cultures such as Korea, subjective norms play an important role in influencing sharing behaviors (de Mooij, 2014), unlike individualistic countries where individuals tend to take responsibility for their own information acquisition. Individuals in collective countries tend to have a societal assumption in that information acquisition is a collective responsibility where individuals would share any relevant information with close friends and family. Thus, Korean publics’ sharing motivations are socially expected outcomes and partake in the sharing behavior (J. Lee et al., 2013). Therefore, an individual’s perception of whether important others support or object to the behavior, can also be shaped by their own drive to gain approval or prevent disapproval.

  • H4: Publics’ a) philanthropism, b) social participation, c) social status, d) pursuing correct information, and e) informative values motivation for sharing public policy promotions on social media will be positively related to their subjective norms regarding sharing public policy promotions on social media.

METHODS
Participants

To test these hypotheses, the third online survey was conducted with a total of 1,000 Korean participants. These participants have not participated in two previous online surveys conducted as part of Study 1. Participants’ ages ranged from 20 to 69 years (M = 44.46, SD = 13.71). 50% of participants were female. Over half of participants (55.9%) resided in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province. 87% of participants are attending a 4-year college or have a bachelor’s degree. 56.7% of participants reported less than US $4,000 as a household monthly income.

Measures

Intention to share public policy promotions on social media was measured with three items borrowed from Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) and they were assessed on a 7-point scale ranging from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (7, Cronbach’s α = .96). Attitudes toward sharing public policy promotions on social media were measured by three 7-point semantic differential scales borrowed from Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) (Cronbach’s α = .89). Subjective norms were measured by three items developed by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) and the response options ranged from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (7) (Cronbach’s α = .93). Motivations for sharing public policy promotions were measured by the strength of each behavioral belief and its corresponding outcome evaluation following TRA (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). The strength of each behavioral belief was assessed on a 7-point scale ranging from “extremely unlikely” (1) to “extremely likely” (7). The outcome evaluation of each expected outcome was measured on a 7-point scale ranging from “extremely bad” (1) to “extremely good” (7). Then, following the expectancy-value model, the strength of each behavioral belief was multiplied by its corresponding outcome evaluation (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). Cronbach alphas of all motivation items ranged from .93 to .96 (see Table 1).

Results
Measurement Model

To validate the overall measurement constructs in the hypothesized model, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was run using AMOS 26 with maximum likelihood estimation. CFA results confirmed the constructs of intention to share public policy promotions on social media, attitudes toward the sharing behavior, subjective norms, and five motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media identified by EFA (i.e., philanthropism, social participation, social status, pursuing correct information, and informative values). The indices of model fit, including normed fit index (NFI), comparative fit index (CFI), Tucker–Lewis index (TLI), and incremental fit index (IFI), indicated a good fit of the CFA model (NFI = .93; CFI = .95; TLI = .94; IFI = .95) (Bentler, 1992; Byrne, 2013; Hair et al., 2010). Additionally, the estimate of the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) was .06, and the standardized root mean square residual (SRMR) was .04, again indicating a good fit of the measurement model (Bentler, 1992; Browne & Cudeck, 1993; Byrne, 2013; Hair et al., 2010). All standardized factor loadings in the measurement model were significant (p < .001; see Table 1).

For the validity of the measurement model, composite reliability (CR), average variance extracted (AVE), and maximum shared variance (MSV), for each of the constructs indicated acceptable convergent validity (Fornell & Larcker, 1981; Hair et al., 2010; see Table 2). Additionally, the square root of the average variance extracted for each construct confirmed was higher than the correlations involving the construct, demonstrating acceptable discriminant validity (Fornell & Larcker, 1981; Hair et al., 2010; see Table 2). Therefore, all eight components of the hypothesized model were confirmed and they can be used as the measurement model to test the hypothesized model.

Table 2.  Correlation Between Constructs, AVE, CR, and MSV (Study 2)

Constructs PHI SP SS PCI IV ATT SN INT
PHI .85a
SP .85 .86a
SS .53 .71 .88a
PCI .74 .76 .63 .91a
IV .85 .81 .41 .75 .90a
ATT .69 .62 .50 .54 .55 .86a
SN .51 .63 .75 .59 .43 .49 .90a
INT .75 .67 .55 .57 .58 .76 .61 .94a
                 
AVE .73 .73 .78 .82 .82 .73 .82 .88
CR .94 .97 .93 .96 .97 .89 .93 .96
MSV .72 .72 .56 .58 .72 .58 .56 .58
Note. PHI – Philanthropism; SP – Social participation; SS – Social status; PCI – Pursuing correct information; IV – Informative values; ATT – Attitudes toward sharing public policy promotions on social media; SN – Subjective norms; INT – Intention to share public policy promotions on social media; AVE – Average variance extracted; CR – Composite reliability; MSV – Maximum shared variance
aThe numbers in the diagonal row are square roots of the average variance extracted.

Hypotheses Testing

A structural equation modeling (SEM) with maximum likelihood estimation was performed using AMOS 26 to test the hypothesized model, demonstrating a good degree of model fit indices of the hypothesized model (NFI = .93; CFI = .94; TLI = .94; IFI = .94; RMSEA = .06; SRMR = .05) (Bentler, 1992; Browne & Cudeck, 1993; Byrne, 2013; Hair et al., 2010). Table 3 and Figure 1 present the results of all hypothesized paths.

Table 3.  Results of Structural Model (Study 2)

Hypotheses Paths Standardized path coefficients Standard errors t-values
H1 ATT -> INT .64 .03 23.35***
H2 SN -> INT .31 .02 12.68***
H3a PHI -> ATT .76 .01 11.66***
H3b SP -> ATT -.03 .01 -.40
H3c SS -> ATT .18 .01 3.76***
H3d PCI -> ATT -.01 .01 -.17
H3e IV -> ATT -.12 .01 -1.81
H4a PHI -> SN .05 .01 .78
H4b SP -> SN .09 .01 1.38
H4c SS -> SN .58 .01 13.09***
H4d PCI -> SN .13 .01 2.83**
H4e IV -> SN -.01 .01 -.10
χ² (790) = 3591.69, p < .001, χ²/df = 4.55; NFI = .93; CFI = .94; TLI = .94; IFI = .94; RMSEA = .06; SRMR = .05
Note. PHI – Philanthropism; SP – Social participation; SS – Social status; PCI – Pursuing correct information; IV – Informative values; ATT – Attitudes toward sharing public policy promotions on social media; SN – Subjective norms; INT – Intention to share public policy promotions on social media. ***p < .001. **p < .01.


Figure 1.  The Results of Hypothesized Model

Note. The solid lines indicate statistical significant effect and the dot lines indicates the effect is not statistically significant. . ***p < .001. **p < .01.



H1 predicted that publics’ attitudes toward sharing public policy promotions on social media would have a positive relationship with their intentions to share public policy promotions on social media. The results indicated that attitudes (β = .64, p < .001) were positively related to behavioral intentions. Thus, H1 was supported.

H2 predicted that publics’ subjective norms regarding sharing public policy promotions on social media would be positively related to their intention to share public policy promotions on social media. The results demonstrated that subjective norms were positively related to behavioral intention (β = .31, p < .001). Therefore, H2 was supported.

H3a-e predicted positive relationships between five motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media and attitudes toward sharing public policy promotions on social media. The results indicated that philanthropism (β = .76, p < .001) and social status (β = .18, p < .001) were positively related to attitudes, whereas social participation (β = -.03, p = .689), pursuing correct information (β = -.01, p = .864), and informative values (β = -.12, p = .070) were not. Therefore, H3a and H3c were supported, but H3b, H3d, and H3e were not supported.

H4a-e predicted that the five motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media would be positively related to subjective norms regarding to share public policy promotions on social media. As a result, social status (β = .58, p < .001) and pursuing correct information (β = .13, p = .005) were positively related to subjective norms. However, philanthropism (β = .05, p = .436), social participation (β = .09, p = .167), and informative values (β = -.01, p = .918) were not significantly related to subjective norms. Therefore, H4c and H4d were supported, whereas H4a, H4b, and H4e were not supported. The means and standard deviations of all constructs in the hypothesized model are reported in Table 4.

Table 4.  Mean and Standard Deviation of All Constructs (Study 2)

Constructs Number of items Mean SD
PHIa 6a 21.07a 8.06a
SPa 11a 19.94a 8.08a
SSa 4a 14.26a 8.51a
PCIa 5a 19.37a 8.90a
IVa 7a 23.40a 8.99a
ATT 3 4.16 1.15
SN 3 3.73 1.39
INT 3 3.91 1.42
Note. PHI – Philanthropism; SP – Social participation; SS – Social status; PCI – Pursuing correct information; IV – Informative values; ATT – Attitudes toward sharing public policy promotions on social media; SN – Subjective norms; INT – Intention to share public policy promotions on social media.
a Scale values range from 1 to 49.


DISCUSSION

Social media have helped governments improve their promotion of public policies and government information as well as their interactions with the publics characterizing e-government and open government (Criado et al., 2013; Medaglia & Zheng, 2017). By applying the U&G approach, which focuses on users’ active participation in the given media, and TRA, which helps understand and predict people’s behaviors, this study explored why publics share public policy promotions on their social media and how these motivations are associated with their affective and behavioral responses to the sharing behavior.

The findings of the first open-ended online survey and the second online survey in Study 1 identified five motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media: philanthropism, social participation, social status, pursuing correct information, and informative values. These motivations are similar to, but different from, previous sharing motivations in different contexts. For instance, social participation motivation for sharing public policy promotions on social media appears to be similar to social conversation motivation for sharing social media content in general (Ham et al., 2019) and socializing motivation for sharing news on social media (C. S. Lee & Ma, 2012; Thompson et al., 2020). Social status motivation for sharing public policy promotions seems to be consistent with social presence motivation for sharing social media content in general (Ham et al., 2019) and status seeking for sharing news on social media (C. S. Lee & Ma, 2012; Thompson et al., 2020). However, pursuing correct information motivations and informative values motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media seem to be unique in that they are related to helping people avoid fake news and misinformation (i.e., pursuing correct information) while finding useful information effectively and efficiently (i.e., informative values; C. S. Lee & Ma, 2012). Unlike user-generated content, a majority of public policy promotions are governmental or news media information featuring law and regulations (Magro, 2012). Since public policies can have a direct impact on individuals’ lives, individuals would likely want to obtain verified information about policies effectively and efficiently. Social media can easily fill those needs through individuals’ sharing behaviors.

An interest ing moti vat ion found i s philanthropism. Unlike entertainment, passing time, relaxation, and escapism motivations (e.g., Kaye & Johnson, 2002; Korgaonkar & Wolin, 1999; Papacharissi & Mendelson, 2007), philanthropism has rarely been found in the previous studies identifying motivations for using social media. This could be related to the characteristics of the message (i.e., public policy promotion). Considering the significant impact a public policy can have on individuals’ lives, individuals may view sharing policy information on social media as them doing a favor to others. In this respect, publics sharing public policy promotions may have a stronger desire to care about others’ benefits and harms than publics in other sharing contexts.

The findings of the second study (i.e., the third online survey) indicated that participants with heightened philanthropic and social status motivations exhibited more positive attitudes, subsequently influencing a stronger intention to share public policy promotions on social media. This indicates that helping others (i.e., philanthropism) and showcasing one’s own knowledge or accessing to up-to-date information (i.e., social status) may encourage them to view this sharing behavior more positively. Notably, both motivations appear to be different from the rest of the motivations, particularly information utility motivations (correct information and information values).

Additionally, it was found that participants who had higher motivation for social status and pursuing correct information were associated with more positive subjective norms, which were connected to heightened behavioral intentions. Social status and sharing the correct information for other people are related to interpersonal influences, which is consistent with the previous studies in the context of online shopping behaviors demonstrating the positive relationship between interpersonal influences and subjective norms (George, 2004; Lin, 2007). However, social status motivation was more closely related to the subjective norms than pursuing correct information. This result could be explained by a collectivistic cultural factor that Koreans focus on the face, which refers to “the proper relationship with one’s social environment” (de Mooij, 2014, p. 126). Upholding their face could be a strong drive for Koreans’ social status motivation.

This study has multiple theoretical implications. Korea is a relatively young democratic society rising from a history of government oppression (Gibney, 1997; Im et al., 2013; C.-W. Lee, 2004). Recruiting Korean publics, this study explored the evidence of why they were motivated to actively consume the public policy promotions and how they responded to them by adopting the U&G and TRA frameworks, which can advance the understanding of digital media use in the Korean government system. Additionally, this study contributed to the applicability of TRA with motivational factors. Although previous motivation studies that applied TRA have used motivations as only antecedents of attitudes (e.g., Ham et al., 2019; J. Lee et al., 2023), this study showed that motivations have cross-over effects on both attitudes and subjective norms.

While public policies are traditionally researched in the field of public policy management or public administration, this study did not only contribute to researching the public policies from the communication discipline, but found findings that are applicable to multiple relevant disciplines. Through this, the study offers a holistic insight in what influences individuals to share public policy promotions from e-government entities based on unique motivations that stand apart from previous research. Additionally, compared to other studies that analyzed general sharing behaviors of social media users through content and advertising (e.g., Ham et al., 2019; J. Lee et al., 2023), this study analyzed five primary motivations for sharing public policy promotions, which contain original content from government agencies and municipalities or news media compared to cultivated content by other individual users.

This study also provides practical implications. First, this study analyzed data collected from Korean citizens, whose countr y is ranked as third among 193 countries in the e-government advancement (UN E-Government Knowledgebase, 2022). The results of this study, which identify diverse motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media, can help in understanding approaches that promote the public's interactions and involvement in government systems. Thus, the results help governments and government officers develop social media as a communication tool with publics as not just for a one-way policy distribution channel, but for an interactive and multi-directional channel. The findings can help policymakers design public policies that are more likely to be accepted and shared by the public on social media, as well as identify potential facilitators of implementation. In doing so, government agencies and officers can increase publics’ public policy engagement. Moreover, through understanding publics’ motivations for sharing public policy promotions, government agencies and officers can utilize the findings of this study strategically in future social media posts and campaigns. They can incorporate motivational factors (e.g., philanthropism and social status factors) into social media posts and campaigns to encourage publics to share public policy promotions. For example, they can emphasize why sharing public policies help other people in their social media posts through images and slogans.

Additionally, from a political communication perspective, this study reveals the multifaceted implications of the complex relationship between social media and modern politics, challenging traditional understanding. The implications span many areas, from political engagement to misinformation and discourse in echo chambers.

Bode’s (2017) exploration illuminates the profound offline implications of seemingly trivial online engagements, suggesting that even the minimally engaged can be nudged toward increased political interest. Yet, this beckons for a broader global study beyond the limitations of U.S.-centric research. Contrary to assumptions, Chen et al.’s (2023) study on YouTube dismantles the notion of algorithms driving users towards extremist content. Rather, it accentuates the influential role of subscribers and viewers who already engage with such content, shaping a small, yet actively involved audience. The pervasiveness of misinformation during the 2016 U.S. election, examined by Guess et al. (2020) underscores the selective nature of users’ consumption aligned with political leanings. Despite its limited reach, misinformation’s concentration among specific groups on platforms such as Facebook is noteworthy, raising questions about fact-checking’s efficacy. Nyhan et al.’s (2023) investigation into echo chambers on Facebook was surprised to find that users encounter like-minded content minimally compared to their overall consumption. Efforts to mitigate exposure demonstrate limited impact, challenging the assumption that echo chambers significantly influence political attitudes. In sum, these studies unravel the complexities of social media’s relationship with political dynamics. While acknowledging its pivotal role, they refrain from labeling social media as the solitary driver of societal issues. However, they emphasize the necessity for strategic action by policymakers.

Agreement among various studies underscores social media’s undeniable societal impact. However, it refrains from cementing social media as the root cause, highlighting the necessity for further exploration. Recently, some advanced countries’ government responses and international organizations’ recommendations in addressing misinformation and disinformation stand as a model. For instance, the OECD (2021, 2023) underscores the urgency of proactive and effective governmental communication and engagement in today’s information landscape, primarily emphasizing the need for comprehensive and well-coordinated action plans and accentuating the significance of clarity, transparency, and neutrality in governmental communication strategies. Moreover, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Finland, and South Korea advocate for streamlined coordination among governmental branches and underscores the importance of unambiguous and coherent messaging to the public in terms of anticipatory innovation governance (OECD, 2023). Recognizing the rapid evolution of information trends and digital technologies, these countries’ government communication services advocate for substantial investments in research to anticipate emerging challenges and contribute to sustainable public governance and development (Kim, 2020). In turn, these results extend to the necessity of continually enhancing the capabilities of government personnel to adeptly navigate evolving issues and demands in the democratic digital sphere (OECD, 2022a).

Furthermore, encouraging governments to uphold transparency, honesty, and openness within legal bounds, emphasizes the empowerment of the public through access to verifiable and trustworthy information. These values and competencies underline the pivotal role of rapid response mechanisms in countering misinformation and stress the necessity of proactive measures to identify and mitigate the spread of false information before it gains widespread attraction (E. H. Lee & Lee, 2021; OECD, 2022a). In this sense, government should be integrated within a whole-of-society approach, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, including the media, private sector, civil society, academia, and individuals.

In conclusion, governments can fortify public communication and media ecosystem by amalgamating these strategies. Clarity, transparency, neutrality, preparedness, prevention, and evidence-based practices amalgamate to foster a well-informed and resilient society, steering clear from the clutches of misinformation (E. H. Lee & Lee, 2021). Through these concerted efforts, governments can forge an information ecosystem founded on trust and reliability (OECD, 2022b).

Limitations and Future Research

There are some limitations to improve upon in this study. First, although this study identified publics’ five motivations for sharing public policy promotions on social media, there might be other motivations to explore. The extensive answers from the open-ended question provided various meaningful motivation items. However, indepth interviews or focus group interviews could provide additional insight into publics’ “whys” for sharing motivations in the future study. Second, the final motivation factors and items were refined through an exploratory factor analysis. Although appropriate steps were proceeded, more work needs to be done to refine and validate the factors and items with different samples. Moreover, there is a possibility that the concept of ‘public policy sharing’ might be interpreted differently by participants when answering the survey questions. Therefore, further efforts are required to refine the conceptual definition of public policy sharing in future studies. Based on the dynamics of the social media environment, various factors could influence social media sharing behaviors, such as past social media content sharing behaviors, time spent on social media, and privacy concerns. Future research can extend the current model by including related variables. Finally, when applying the TRA framework, the current study relied only on self-reported estimates of sharing behavior on social media, and future research may consider including the actual act of online sharing to enhance the explanatory power of the model.


Acknowledgments

We greatly appreciate financial support for this research by KDI School of Public Policy and Management. This work was supported by the KDI (Korea Development Institute) School of Public Policy and Management

Disclosure Statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.


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