Does Twitter Increase Perceived Police Legitimacy?

December 06, 2016 by Stephan G. Grimmelikhuijsen, Albert J. Meijer

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Social media use has become increasingly popular among police forces. The literature suggests that social media use can increase perceived police legitimacy by enabling transparency and participation. Employing data from a large and representative survey of Dutch citizens (N = 4,492), this article tests whether and how social media use affects perceived legitimacy for a major social media platform, Twitter. A negligible number of citizens engage online with the police, and thus the fi ndings reveal no positive relationship between participation and perceived legitimacy. The article shows that by enhancing transparency, Twitter does increase perceived police legitimacy, albeit to a limited extent. Subsequent analysis of the mechanism shows both an affective and a cognitive path from social media use to legitimacy. Overall, the findings suggest that establishing a direct channel with citizens and using it to communicate successes does help the police strengthen their legitimacy, but only slightly and for a small group of interested citizens.