Discursive networks on Facebook during the 2012 French presidential election

This source preferred by Darren Lilleker

Authors: Lilleker, D., Koc-Michalska, K. and Wells, C.

Start date: 24 June 2014

Journal: Special edition proposal pending

Around the world, parties and candidates have turned to social media as exciting new spaces in which to encounter and interact with publics, and generate support. However, we still have quite limited knowledge of how these platforms are used, by whom, and how they intersect with larger discussions of political issues. To develop our understanding of political communication in this area, we draw on data collected during the 2012 French presidential election. Between March 16 and April 20, 2012, we gathered all 1244 Facebook posts created by the nine principal candidates for the presidency, and some 600,000 comments responding to those posts. Because our data include both posted content and relationships between content creators—in terms of which commenters responded to each politicians’ posts, and appeared alongside other commenters in threads—they offer a unique opportunity to combine discourse and network analyses to engage some of the most important questions in contemporary political communication. Especially: to what extent are Facebook pages used as partisan echo chambers, and to what extent do they foster inter-party deliberation? That is, do we see evidence that individuals are moving across candidates’ pages, spreading information and arguments from one to the next? Also, can we detect the emergence of issue publics—comprising sets of individuals who raise similar concerns across different pages? And what is the relationship between candidates’ posts and their publics’ responses? Do commenters respond more strongly to some kinds of posts than others? Are they more energetic in their response to posts on certain topics?

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