Internet, Politics, Policy (IV). Comparative Campaigning (I)

Notes from the Internet, Politics, Policy 2010: An Impact Assessment conference, organized by the Oxford Internet Institute, and held at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, UK, on September 16-17, 2010. More notes on this event: ipp2010.

Why Mobilize Support Online? The Paradox of Party Behavior Online
Ana Sofia Cardenal, Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3)

There is an increasing number of Internet users, there have been some very interesting cases of political use of the Internet, and nevertheless, there still seems to be an underexploiting of the opportunities that the Internet offers for political mobilization.

The parties would use the Internet if benefits are higher than costs. Benefits would be increasing expectations of winning office and competition. Costs would be party cohesion (risk of losing control of message when using the Internet), party size (need for more resources and/or support cost of opportunity of allocating resources on online campaigns) and size and importance of extra-parliamentary organization (strategies of recruitment might interfere with online mobilization).

(H1) Large parties will have more incentives than smaller ones to use the net. (H2) Large parties that are in the opposition and compete for office have more incentives to be active online. (H3) Non ideological parties or conversel highly cohesive ideologicals are in better position to use the Internet in their own benefit. (H4) Parties with small extra-parliamentary organizations will also be in a better position than parties with large bureaucracies.

The research analyses the websites of 12 parties and the actions of +1300 online activists.

Findings show that large, non-cohesive, and parties with small bureaucracies have the best (the most interactive and participatory) websites and are the most successful in mobilizing their followers online. In particular, the Catalan nationalist party (CDC) is arguably the one that does best, as it has traditionally been a mobilization party.

Concerning supporters, while it seems that parties do not matter much in offline activism, cyberactivism is more successful in specific parties.

Summing up, party characteristics matter in explaining how parties behave online and what is their impact in cyberactivism.

Internet and Votes: The Impact of New ICTs on the 2008 Spanish Parliamentary Elections
Albert Padró-Solanet, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Goal: what is the role of the Internet in party competition: normalization or revolution? And what is the relevance of the context in all the matter?

The dependent variable is party vote or abstention (not participation) and as independent variables there are party vote intention at t-1, campaign exposure (offline, online, political information).

Findings show that online political information exposure differs from offline exposure: there not always is a reinforcement on party vote, and sometimes there is no impact or a negative one on major parties. In other words, e.g. people that stated at t-1 that they would be voting to the PSOE, have a decreasing probability of ending up doing so as their exposure to online political information increases. The probability of abstention, on the other hand, increases as the exposure to online political information also increases. Offline exposure, though, acts in the opposite way, reducing abstention and reinforcing your initial intentions to vote a specific party.

Reasons for this behaviour might be that, probably, online political information is more fragmented than offline political information, but it doesn’t lead to selective exposure (against normalization hypothesis but vs. a Balkanization hypothesis).

Lessons Learned from Obama? The Effect of Individual Use of Party Websites on Voting in the Elections to the European Parliament 2009 in Germany
Pablo Porten-Cheé, Ilmenau University of Technology, Germany

In Germany, parties still spend little on the Net, though they state the importance of web campaigning specially to inform the public, to mobilize young voters, to activate partisans, etc.

What is the impact of political informational (including use of party websites) and interpersonal political online communication on voting? The assumption is that there is a positive impact which leads to more votes.

Findings show that there was a highly significant effect in the green vote in the latest German elections.

Voter Targeting via the Web – A Comparative Structural Analysis of Austrian and German Party Websites
Uta Russmann, University of Innsbruck, Austria

How do parties target their audiences online? Classically, parties have segmented voters in combinations of age, gender, ethnicity, profession, education, ideology and lifestyle.

(H1) Catch-all parties address a more general audience on their website. (H2) Austrian parties address a more general audience on their website, zed features and techniques on their website to specific target groups.

Results show that catch-all parties do target specific groups and client parties address the general public and specific target groups evenly. The behaviour is similar in Germany and Austria. On the single website the general public is addressed more often. After the general public, party members and supporters are the most targeted audiences by political parties. There does not seem to be a clear strategy relating online targeting.

Discussion

Ute Russmann: is there a profile of citizen that only gets their political information online? Albert Padró-Solanet: people are very heterogeneous in how they find their political information.

Q: could targeting be made by tailoring different candidates within the same party, each candidate shaped according to the expectations of different segments? Ute Russmann: there does not seem to be such a practice. On the contrary, the image of all the candidates of a given party is very homogeneous.

Stephen Ward: could online negative campaigning have an impact in people being informed online voting less? Albert Padró-Solanet: doubtless there is an impact, but maybe is not that much that there is such a thing as negative campaigning, but that people online find much more information, positive and negative, about candidates and parties.

Stephen Ward: in targeting, wouldn’t it be a better channel using direct e-mail or social networking sites? Ute Russmann: they surely are now, but during the German elections in 2008 (which is the object of the research), political parties were not really using web 2.0 tools very intensivelly.

Papers

Internet, Politics, Policy 2010: An Impact Assessment (2010)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2010) “Internet, Politics, Policy (IV). Comparative Campaigning (I)” In ICTlogy, #84, September 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=3502

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