Online Election Campaigning: Exploring Supply and Demand during the France 2012 Presidential Election

Online Election Campaigning: Exploring Supply and Demand during the France 2012 Presidential Election

Darren G. Lilleker (Bournemouth University, UK) and Karolina Koc-Michalska (SciencesCom – Audencia Group, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8358-7.ch067
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Abstract

Studies of online campaigning tend to focus on the supply side: the way political parties communicate and campaign using the Internet. This chapter explores the online presences of the main candidates and their parties who stood in the 2012 French presidential election. The research focuses not only on the supply side but also explores demand, utilising data from the Mediapolis survey to ascertain what citizens search for online and in particular what citizens seeking help with their voter decisions seek online. The data shows that citizens are provided with a rich online experience during election campaigns. Information is presented in engaging ways and candidates attempt to mobilise their supporters and offer various opportunities to interact with the campaign and other Website visitors. Interaction is augmented in particular by the use of social networking sites. Citizens, however, appear to mostly go online to find detailed information on the policies and programmes of the candidates. There appears little call for engaging communication, interactive opportunities, or details on the personal lives or personalities of the candidates. The data may, therefore, suggest that information may need to be packaged for accessibility and presented in a way that allows voters to make up their own minds, rather than following the norms of corporate sales campaign Websites.
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Political Communication And Elections Online

With the Internet becoming a publicly accessible medium emerged a range of optimistic accounts of the impact upon politics. The cyber-optimist position argued that existing hierarchies of power and influence would be flattened, any individual would have an equal share of voice independent of their status and politics would develop an inclusive and participatory character (Rheingold 1993; Negroponte 1995; Dertouzos 1997). The arguments surrounding the potential uses and impacts of the Internet are summarised well by Pippa Norris (2003: 24):

first wave advocates claimed that the Internet could provide new forms of horizontal and vertical communication, which had the capacity: (i) to broaden the range of pluralistic voices heard in the public sphere and (ii) to facilitate new forms of interactivity and deliberation, thereby (iii) widening the pool of political participants.

The majority of work focusing on the context of election campaigning has studied the impact of the Internet from an institutional perspective. The early works found little evidence that the Internet was having any impact beyond strengthening existing patterns of participation (Bimber 1998; Corrado 2000; Davis 1999; Davis & Owen 1998; Hill & Hughes 1998; Kamarck & Nye 1999). The evidence led Margolis and Resnick (2000) to articulate an enduring perspective of the Internet as perpetuating what they describe as ‘politics as usual’. In rebutting the cyber optimist perspective they observe that “Far from remaking American politics, the development of cyberspace, and particularly of the WWW, seems more likely to reinforce the status quo” (Margolis & Resnick 2000: 54).

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