Comparing online campaigning: The evolution of interactive campaigning from Royal to Obama to Hollande

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Authors: Lilleker, D.G.

Journal: French Politics

Volume: 14

Issue: 2

Pages: 234-253

eISSN: 1476-3427

ISSN: 1476-3419

DOI: 10.1057/fp.2016.5

© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. Studies of election campaigning from a comparative perspective have a long history; this study approaches the topic through a most-similar regime perspective to explore the ebb and flow of innovations in digital campaigning between presidential campaigns in France and the United States. The hype surrounding the 2008 Obama campaign overshadowed innovations in France the previous year, while the 2011 contest gained little serious academic attention. Using a well-established content analysis methodology the research explains the strategic design of the digital dimension of the campaigns of the leading candidates (Sarkozy and Royal in 2007, Obama and McCain in 2008, Hollande and Sarkozy in 2011, and Obama and Romney in 2012). The research then assesses the strategic contribution of each feature using schematics for understanding the flow of communication, as well as the strategy employed by each candidate. The key findings are that the campaigns are becoming more interactive, with the citizens increasingly more able to enter into conversations with the campaign teams, however interactivity when it happens is carefully controlled. Largely, however, there is a strong similarity masked by the sophistication of US contests. Despite the advances in communication technology and the social trends they have instigated, campaign communication remains top-down and digital technologies are used to gather data and push supporters towards activism than creating an inclusive space for the co-creation that cyberoptimists argued would revitalise the structures of democracy.

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