Notes from the 4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress.
Electoral strategies on the Internet
The experience of the 2008 Spanish General Elections.
José Rodríguez and Xavier Peytibí, political experts.
In the Spanish general elections (March 9th, 2008), the web has had more importance than ever, but it still far from being a mainstream communication media.
- Interactivity between the party and the citizenry, with an increase on blogs and nanoblogs (e.g. twitter) resulting in an increase of the reach of the political message.
- New methods to outsource participation: not only members of the party and campaign volunteers, but also occasional supporters: from outsourcing to crowdsourcing. This has meant more reach and at a much lesser cost.
- Change of formats: everything reusable and by anyone, being embedding the main practice.
- Social Networking Sites: enable or ease that people that think alike support each other. Facebook arguably the star.
- i-Campaigning: personal campaigning. With any kind of multimedia material, anyone can create their own campaign.
The blogosphere of a party is not really their blogosphere, controlled by the powers of the party, but a blurry cloud of people gathering around similar ideas/ideologies. This has been really significative in the case of the party in the opposition in Spain (the Popular Party, PP) after their defeat in 2004. This made of that blogosphere a strong and organized voice that faced the 2008 elections with a lot of strength. But, after the second defeat in 2008, this blogosphere in part split in several pieces and in part turned against its “own” party. So: the blogosphere is neither controlled, nor predictable.
An important thing to state about political blogospheres is that they are loudspeakers of the dissensions and problems that take place inside the party.
In the socialist party, the blogosphere as indeed succeeded in creating — not yet in having it accepted — amendment to the status of virtual volunteers. While the party wanted to treat them as a separate thing to the core of the party, them virtual volunteers and supporters want a status alike any other volunteer or supporter, with they right to vote and have delegates.
José Rodríguez, Albert Padró-Solanet, Xavier Peytibí
Presentation of the results from the Parties and ICT research project.
Albert Padró-Solanet, Professor of Political Science, UOC, and member of the GADE-IN3 research group. Comments and moderator: Rosa Borge, Professor of Political Science, UOC.
Research goals: why ICTs are so notorious in recent political campaigns? Is it due to sort of a cyberoptimism?
The intensive use in the US of Web 2.0 applications, the reporting on the TV of the performance of politics 2.0, and the self-perception of the political e-leaders themselves that the web rules have undoubtedly boosted the notoriety of Politics 2.0.
Opportunities: additional media, almost costless, enormous potential of reach, segmentation, quick response, links with individuals and groups that think alike and endorse their discourse, bigger support, can better control the diffusion of the information (as they cannot directly control mass media), potentially interactive.
Risks: cost of having information up-to-date, ambiguity is avoided and thus debate is not fostered, in the long run the control over the message is absolutely lost.
The research model tries to explain the web behaviour of the political party according to several independent variables:
- Ideology: left-right, nationalism (Spanish-Catalan)
- Organization: kind of party (catch-all, masses), centralization (centralized-decentralized), internal conflict visible (y/n)
- Electoral market: government-opposition, regional-state wide, size (big-small), coalition (y/n)
The dependent variables are the ones by Gibson & Ward (2001) that measure the degree of development of a party’s website:
- There’s an evident strategic use of the Web for political issues: no hype, no “because it’s cool” factor
- Leadership, big size, in the political movement implies (pressure to achieve) leadership in the Internet
- Smaller size requires more participation, to have more members and raise more funding
- Mass parties reproduce offline structures to the online landscape
- There is some rivalry between offline and online participation
- Batlle, A., Borge, R., Cardenal, A. S. & Padró-Solanet, A. (2007). Reconsidering the analysis of the uses of ICTs by political parties: an application to the Catalan case. Communication presented at the 4th ECPR General Conference. Pisa: ECPR.
Me: what’s the weight of the budget in Web 2.0 campaigning? JR & XP: It is important to kick off the campaign, but the sustainability in the long run and its growth it’s directly related to the ability to engage volunteers. Actually, Obama raises a lot of money on the web, i.e. it’s more an investment than a cost.
Helen Margets: is it the website a dependent variable or an independent one? Ever done the analysis the other way round? AP-S: There is a strong correlation between the structure of the party and the use of the web, so it makes sense thinking of it the other way round, but there’s no analysis yet with this approach.
An attendee: so, the way people participate has really changed? XP: Yes, it has. The possibility that supporters can rip-mix-burn the campaign materials is a crucial change in the whole concept of campaigning. JR: Indeed, an elite of high-class (intellectuals, scholars, etc.) supporters are subverting the whole system of the political party, implying that the basis of the party are left aside in benefit of latecomers that have high e-media impact. Thus, more people taking part into the internal debate of a specific party can indeed imply less internal democracy, as the structures are overridden by the high-class digerati elite latecomers.
Marc López: What’s the role of cybersupporters, to help diffuse the discourse of the powers of the party, or to debate them? Who are the cyberpartisans? JR: Dissension is tolerated while constructive, but if it turns to be destructive, bloggers become a problem. XP: We don’t know who the partisans are, but we do know that cyberpartisans and cybersupporters and birds of a different feather. XP-S: there’s another issue that makes it difficult to know who the cybersupporters are and it’s privacy.