Special issue of New Media & Society

Recently the online articles of the special issue “Online Campaigning in Politics” of New Media & Society, guest edited by me, came online. Below are the abstracts and the DOI’s of the articles. I wish to thank all authors for their contributions to this issue. I also thank Nicholas Jankowski and Steve Jones (editors of New Media & Society) for letting me do this special issue.
Two articles are the result of the international collaborative research project CENMEP (Comparative European and New Media and Elections Project), which started in COST A30: East of West: Setting a New Central and Eastern European Media Research Agenda. I would like to thank Carlos Cunha and Gerrit Voerman for their assistence, contributions and acting as hosts for meetings during the development of the project in Groningen and Lisbon. I also thank all local organizers and coders across Europe responsible for the data collection:

  • Austria: Flooh Perlot and Peter Filzmaier
  • Belgium: Eva De Smedt and Wim Vanobberghen
  • Cyprus: Dimitra Milioni
  • Czech Republic: Václav Štetka
  • Estonia: Ülle Toole
  • France: Karolina Koc Michalska and Thierry Vedel
  • Germany: Eva Schweitzer
  • Greece: Marianna Psilla, Nikos Leandros, Sofia Fourouli and Vassiliki Paliatsa
  • Hungary: Gabriella Szabó and Zsuzsanna Mihályffy
  • Ireland: Lugh O Braonain
  • Italy: Cristian Vaccari and James Newell
  • the Netherlands: Liesbeth Hermans, Nicole Louwers, Maurice Vergeer
  • Poland: Michal Jacunski
  • Portugal: Carlos Cunha
  • Romania: Dorina Gutu
  • Slovakia: Branislav Ondrasik
  • Sweden: Lars Lundgren
  • United Kingdom: Darren Lilleker and Nigel Jackson

(I hope this list is complete. However, if I’ve missed someone, please inform me ASAP)

Below is a list of abstracts of the articles in the special issue:

Politics, elections and online campaigning: Past, present . . . and a peek into the future
Maurice Vergeer

This introduction provides a brief overview of developments in research on political campaigning on the Internet. It presents state-of-the-art research in the field of political communication and the Internet, after which summaries of the studies in this special issue are provided. Finally, the article suggests a number of future research concerns.

Live research: Twittering an election debate
Greg Elmer

This paper questions how vertical tickers on leading social media platforms (blogs, Facebook, and in particular the Twitter micro-blogging platform) pose new challenges to research that focuses on political communications campaigns. Vertical looped tickers highlight the fleeting nature of contemporary networked and socially mediated communications, since they provide an intensely compressed space (interface) and time to have posts viewed by friends and followers. This article draws upon a research collaboration with the news division of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to understand how Canadian political parties increasingly worked to strategically intervene, in real time on Twitter, during a broadcast political debate.

Party organizational change and ICTs: The growth of a virtual grassroots?

Rachel Gibson, Kevin Gillan, Fabienne Greffet, Benjamin Lee, & Stephen Ward
This paper examines the relationship between unofficial party blogs and official party sources in the UK using a mixed-method approach. Specifically we combine interview data with content analysis, user surveys and usage data, and finally hyperlink analysis to profile the emergence, popularity, audience and online prominence of four major party blogs since 2005. The core question posed is how far the blogs are challenging parties as the focal point for member activism and offering an alternative public ‘voice’. The findings show blogs occupy an important alternative critical space for party debate, particularly outside elections. They are not mobilizing tools, however, being used by the grassroots largely for information-gathering and discussion purposes.

Personalization in e-campaigning: A cross-national comparison of personalization strategies used on candidate websites of 17 countries in EP elections 2009
Liesbeth Hermans & Maurice Vergeer

Candidate websites provide politicians with opportunities to present themselves in an individual way. To a greater or lesser extent politicians share personal information in their biographies and provide options to connect with citizens by putting links on their websites to their social networking sites (SNS). In this paper, although acting on different levels, both strategies are indicated as forms of personalization strategies used by politicians in their online communication. This cross-national study explores the use of these strategies on candidate websites in 17 countries during the elections for the European Parliament (EP) in June 2009. This is a comparative study of the personalized and individualized campaigning styles used during elections. Findings show that three general dimensions of personalization can be distinguished; ‘professional’, ‘home and family’ and ‘personal preferences’. While the first two dimensions show a higher level of use among candidates, the third dimension on private information is hardly used. Results show also that countries from Central Europe inform their citizens more about their professional and personal circumstances, and Mediterranean countries use personalization strategies the least. Furthermore, the overall findings show that SNS were not frequently used during the 2009 e-campaigning. West European countries use links to SNS more frequently than countries in other regions. In general these findings suggest cross-cultural differences regarding online personalized political campaigning.

The structural relationship between politicians’ web visibility and political finance networks: A case study of South Korea’s National Assembly members
Yon Soo Lim & Han Woo Park

This study examines whether the network characteristics represented on the Internet drive or reflect other events and occurrences in the offline environment. More specifically, the purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between the web visibility network of Korea’s National Assembly members and the amount of financial donations they receive from the public. The results of the linear correlation analysis indicate a positive direction, suggesting that politicians who occupy a central position in the web visibility network are more likely to receive financial donations than those occupying a peripheral position. The quadratic assignment procedure (QAP) correlation results revealed a significant correlation between politicians’ web visibility network and their political finance network. This study identifies the structural relationship between Korean politicians’ online and offline networks.

From echo chamber to persuasive device? Rethinking the role of the Internet in campaigns
Cristian Vaccari

Most of the e-campaigning literature claims that the Internet can reinforce political attitudes, but not change them. In this article, I analyze the issue through the receive−accept−sample (RAS) theory, which postulates that messages can change attitudes if they are both received and accepted by audiences. Based on qualitative elite interviews with 31 consultants and operatives involved in the 2008 United States presidential election, I argue that campaigns are finding new avenues to improve both reception and acceptance of their messages, and the implications merit close empirical scrutiny. The probability of message reception can be increased by citizens’ propensity to seek out issue positions online and by diffusion through low-threshold activities by supporters; the probability of message acceptance can be augmented by video and the targeting of content; finally, indirect persuasion through interpersonal communication can increase the probability of both reception and acceptance.

Web campaigning in the 2009 European Parliament elections: A cross-national comparative analysis
Maurice Vergeer, Liesbeth Hermans & Carlos Cunha

Political communication has transformed drastically since the Internet made its way into the political arena. Political parties seem unable to do without a website or a social networking profile any longer, particularly in election campaigns. One of the many approaches to studying online political communication is measuring specific website features political parties, politicians and candidates utilize in order to engage visitors in the political process. Even though the analysis of online political communication has evolved over the years, website-feature analysis is still a valid instrument to study political actors. The explanations sought to understand website-feature utilization are found in earlier cross-national comparative studies (technological and human development) as well as new ones (political systems characteristics, ideology, participation and engagement). This study looks back on two prior cross-national comparative research projects and reports on a cross-national comparative analysis of 1026 candidate and party websites from 17 countries participating in the European Parliament (EP) elections of 2009. To analyze these data, some methodological improvements are made compared to earlier studies.

Social networks in political campaigns: Facebook and the congressional elections of 2006 and 2008
Christine Williams & Jeff Gulati

This study examines the early adoption and dissemination of emerging technology tools in campaigns by analyzing which candidates were the most likely to adopt and use Facebook in the 2006 and 2008 elections to the US House of Representatives. The research hypotheses draw primarily from the diffusion of innovation literature. Our analysis of 802 candidates in 2006 and 816 candidates in 2008 indicates that Facebook adoption diffused rapidly between 2006 and 2008, with party (Democrats), competition, money and the level of education in the district explaining both adoption and implementation. Challengers and candidates for open seats were more likely to be early adopters, but incumbents used Facebook more extensively. Both higher adoption rates by peers or competitors in the candidate’s own state and a propensity to adopt earlier campaign technologies are strong positive motivators for early adoption, but irrelevant to usage.

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Maurice Vergeer

I am Maurice Vergeer, working at Communication Science department of the Radboud University Nijmegen, in the Netherlands.