Evolving In Step or Poles Apart?: Online Audiences and Networking during Poland and France 2011-12 Election Campaign

Evolving In Step or Poles Apart?: Online Audiences and Networking during Poland and France 2011-12 Election Campaign

Karolina Koc-Michalska, Darren G. Lilleker
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8358-7.ch064
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Comparative studies are rare in the study of online communication campaigning. The authors chose two cases, Poland and France, to describe the two campaigns for the Parliamentary elections. Content analysis allowed the authors to detect online communication strategies and parties' attempt to reach different audiences. Web-cartography illustrates the parties' network connections. The authors find strong cross-country and resource-based differences for the more interactive and engaging features (Web 2.0), which are not that powerful for explaining audience-targeting strategies. Overall a sales strategy and a focus on marketing dominated over e-representation (exhibiting the parties' political record). In both countries social media platforms are well incorporated into online strategies. Facebook dominates in Poland, Twitter in France. Web cartography gives a counterintuitive picture of the Polish parties' network being much more personalized but also of more ghettoing within the supporting environment.
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The impact of new technologies on political communication, attracting different publics and building networks, in particular during election campaigns is a topic of interest enjoying extensive coverage over the last decade or so. Studies have evolved from asking whether websites or emails are utilized (Kluver et al., 2007; Ward et al., 2008) to exploring the extent of their embeddedness as they become standard tools for political communication (Foot & Schneider, 2006; Strandberg, 2008). In recent years focus has shifted towards social networking sites and the use of features which permit direct and public interaction between party operatives, candidates and the wider online public (Vergeer et al., 2011). In particular, since the Obama presidential campaign in 2008, researchers have looked for evidence of ‘Obamafication’ in terms of building campaigning communities around a candidate or party (Lilleker & Jackson, 2011). Our research builds on these broad trends in research, focusing on adoption of online campaigning but developing the area conceptually by analyzing the utilization of features that potentiate specific experiences for visitors. Therefore, we assess the role online platforms play within the campaign as both persuasive communication and relational tools. Our study also adds a comparative dimension, we choose a small comparative sample but one that due to a small temporal differential, but meaningful systemic similarities and differences, permits insights into the trajectory of online political campaigning both between and within nations. Studying online campaigning in well-developed democracies however with different political systems (semi-presidential vs. parliamentarian) and different electoral systems (single seat-constituencies with two-round runoff elections vs. proportional list voting) allows us to understand the extent that systemic variables govern campaigning or whether there is a model of community creation that is becoming transnational across technologically advanced nations.

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