Exposing themselves? The Intimatization of tweeting behaviour during the 2010 British and Dutch general election campaigns

Authors: Graham, T. and Jackson, D.

Conference: ECPR General Conference

Dates: 4-6 September 2014


This study investigates the personal in political candidates’ tweets during the 2010 British and Dutch general election campaigns. Besides campaign updates and promotion, Twitter is being used to give citizens a glimpse into a candidate’s personal life, for example to raise confidence and establish a closer relationship with the public. Indeed, for a political class who are experiencing a collective failure to inspire confidence in their sincerity and trustworthiness, microblogging and SNSs provide an opportunity to adopt communicative strategies that might reduce the apparent disconnection between politicians and those they claim to represent. The question remains whether and how politicians are using Twitter to reduce or eradicate this disconnection. Are they, for example, using Twitter as an attempt to seem like ‘ordinary people’? Are they using Twitter to foster a sense of closeness, mutuality, coherence and empathy, which Coleman and Blumler (2009) describe, with voters? The aim of this paper is to begin to address these questions by mapping the various ways in which candidates used Twitter to tap into the ‘personal’ and ‘intimate’ during the campaign. The study builds off a previous study, which was based on a content analysis of tweets (n=54,327) from all tweeting British (Conservatives, Labour and LibDems) and Dutch (10 seat-holding parties) candidates. From this, the top 10 candidates, from both cases, with the most (purely) personal tweets were selected for further investigation. Quantitative and qualitative content analyses of 10,556 tweets (from the 20 candidates) was conducted, focusing on the mixing of the political and the personal in candidates tweets and the topics of such tweets. The analysis showed that politicians share their private lives on Twitter; nearly a quarter of the 20 candidates tweets were personal in nature containing personal information, e.g. about family, hobbies, pets, etc. Moreover, the preliminary findings from the qualitative analysis suggest that politicians have developed communicative strategies when it comes to the intermingling of the personal and political, from using the personal to draw attention to political issues to using it to promote ones party. In addition to the showing how personal stories and experiences of candidates are mingled with the political, the qualitative analysis will also discuss whether and how this may be creating a sense of intimacy/connection with the public (followers).

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Dan Jackson