Informing, engaging, mobilizing or interacting: Searching for a European model of web campaigning

This source preferred by Darren Lilleker

Authors: Lilleker, D., Koc Michalska, K., Jacunski, M. and Schweitzer, E.

http://www.luxembourg2010.org/

Start date: 18 March 2010

Turnout figures alone for European parliamentary elections suggest there is widespread disengagement from matters relating to the European Union. Contests are frequently framed as either a referendum on incumbent governments or on the nation’s relationship with the Union’s bureaucracy. Campaigns often also reflect this narrative and so may lack relevance to citizen electorates. While campaigns are increasingly multi-faceted and use all communication tools available, many have suggested that the Internet possesses the capacity, if used to its full potential, to reengage citizens with politics. It would seem therefore that use of the Internet during European parliamentary elections could fulfil three objectives. Firstly, it could be used to engage citizens with the campaigns of specific parties. Secondly, it could be used to engage citizens with matters relating to the European Union. Thirdly, parties could use the contest as a testing ground for new techniques of campaigning. Traditionally the Internet has been used to disseminate information directly to citizens with little indication that parties have attempted to engage or interact with visitors to their sites. Barack Obama’s campaign in the US in 2008 did offer hints of a new model, however this may have been perceived as particular for a US contest. Thus this paper enquires whether there is evidence from the European parliamentary contest of a new model of European political communication or if political campaigning on the Internet remains politics as usual.

This paper analyses the features present on party main web presences during the 2009 European Parliamentary Elections across four nations: France, Germany, Poland and the UK. The analysis focuses on the following six questions: 1) To what extent did all parties provide information for; attempt to engage with; attempt to mobilise; and provide an interactive experience for web visitors? 2) Can differences and similarities be explained by the party’s electoral standing? 3) Can differences and similarities between nations’ media, social and political systems explain differences and similarities?

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Authors: Lilleker, D.G., Koc-Michalska, K., Schweitzer, E.J., Jacunski, M., Jackson, N. and Vedel, T.

Journal: European Journal of Communication

Volume: 26

Issue: 3

Pages: 195-213

eISSN: 1460-3705

ISSN: 0267-3231

DOI: 10.1177/0267323111416182

This study presents data from content analyses of the websites of all parties that stood in the 2009 European parliamentary elections in France, Germany, Great Britain and Poland. It cross-nationally examines the main functions of the websites, the adoption of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 features, and the political and cultural factors that determine parties' online communication. The findings show that while the main website function varies across countries, Web 1.0 is still the dominant mode of campaigning. Moreover, offline inequalities within and between nations determine differences in parties' individual online strategies: specifically, major parties in states with long histories of democracy and EU membership lead the way and offer more interactive and innovative modes of campaigning. On the other hand, minor parties, particularly in Poland, remain in a more Web 1.0, information-heavy mode of communication. This supports the so-called normalization thesis on both the meso and the macro level. © The Author(s) 2011.

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