The Popularization of Political Communication: A New Definition, Its Drivers on Facebook, Its Properties Under the Current Hybrid Media System

The Popularization of Political Communication: A New Definition, Its Drivers on Facebook, Its Properties Under the Current Hybrid Media System

Diego Ceccobelli
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7472-3.ch021
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This article presents and adopts a new definition of the popularization of political communication, which is defined as a strategic communicative action through which political actors try to create new connections with those citizens who do not still know, follow and support them and to emotionally strengthen the political bond with their current sympathizers. Second, a comparative analysis of the Facebook pages of the main political leaders of 31 countries shows that the popularization of political communication is a relevant phenomenon on Facebook, while a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) indicates that the presence of a presidential system, a high digitalization of the media system, and a high level of trust in political institutions are three sufficient conditions for a “pop” communication on Facebook. Finally, the article identifies and discusses its main properties and development under the current hybrid media system.
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The Popularization Of Political Communication

In a time characterized by the so-called “populist zeitgeist” (Mudde, 2004), the most recent literature on leaders’ communication style has devoted less attention to other concepts that have animated the scientific debate on this topic for many years. Before the populist zeitgeist hypothesis reached enormous popularity within academic research, concepts such as the personalization of politics (Karvonen, 2010; Rahat & Sheafer, 2007), celebrity politics (Street, 2004; West & Orman, 2003; Wheeler, 2013), lifestyle politics (Bennett, 1998; Mancini, 2011) and intimate politics (Langer, 2010; Stanyer, 2013) were among the main concepts adopted by media scholars to describe and explain the changes occurring in the political communication of contemporary political actors. All these concepts have been and are still employed as theoretical lenses denoting the different strategies used by political actors to communicate proficiently with voters due to a continuously transforming media and a political environment characterized by individualization (Inglehart, 1997), party-de-alignment (Dalton et al., 2000), commercialization (Hallin & Mancini, 2004) media abundance and audience fragmentation (Iyengar & Hahn, 2009; Jomini Stroud, 2011; Mancini, 2013; Prior, 2007). The transformations denoted by these concepts are straightforward: political leaders currently sell more than parties (the personalization of politics); they must appear like ordinary citizens and in touch with the daily lives of their voters (lifestyle politics); they have to be perceived as extraordinary individuals, deserving of the office they aspire to hold (celebrity politics); and finally, political leaders must make their private lives public because voters need to trust them, and disclosing aspects of their private lives make them appear authentic (intimate politics).

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