A Europe Wide Web? Political Parties’ Websites in the 2009 European Parliament Elections
29 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2010 Last revised: 4 Jul 2014
Date Written: August 17, 2010
This paper investigates the characteristics of parties’ websites during the campaign for the 2009 European Parliament elections. The study focuses on five Western and Southern European countries (England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain) and covers a total of fifty-five websites, which were analyzed in the last two weeks before the vote. The analysis was conducted through a standard coding scheme modelled after Gibson and Ward’s (2000) seminal proposal, expanded in order to account for the developments in e-campaigning that have occurred thereafter, and integrated with the results of a meta-analysis of seven coding frames employed by previous researchers. Website features were divided into two main categories: those that provide information to users and those that facilitate their participation to the campaign both online and offline. The goals of this study are, first, to offer an updated mapping of the state of the art in Western European online campaigning and, second, to discover which variables affect the characteristics of party websites. This goal is achieved through regression analyses that correlate indexes measuring the amount of information and participation features in parties’ websites with variables that measure system-level as well as party-level characteristics. Results show that system-level variables have no appreciable effect on party websites, while among party-level variables resources and incumbency do not significantly affect websites, but ideology has a strong effect on information and, particularly participation, as parties’ belonging to the Socialist and Left-Libertarian families is strongly and positively correlated with both information and participation features on their websites.
Keywords: European elections, online campaigning, party websites, European parties, normalization theory
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