Informing, Engaging, Mobilising or Interacting: searching for a European model of web campaigning

This source preferred by Darren Lilleker

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

Start date: 19 May 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’

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