Getting Out the Vote in the Social Media Era: Are Digital Tools Changing the Extent, Nature and Impact of Party Contacting in Elections?
24 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
The arrival of the internet and email, and more recently social media or web 2.0 technologies has provided parties and candidates with a range of new and more personalized ways to engage in voter contacting. This paper seeks to measure the extent of these new online forms of contact in the U.S. 2012 Presidential election and UK 2010 General Election and compare them with more traditional offline methods. In a second step we seek to measure the effect of these new forms of contact on individual political behaviour, specifically in terms of whether they increased the likelihood of voting and engagement in other campaign activities. We do so using a combination data sources that include the American National Election Study, an original survey of online political behaviour conducted in the UK 2010 campaign and the 2010 British Election Study. Our findings show that online contact constitutes a small proportion of that received by voters in both countries, particularly in the case of the UK.. Offline methods still remain most popular. Furthermore indirect online contact (i.e. mediated through social networks) is more common than that coming directly from the campaign. In terms of mobilization, online contacting (direct or indirect) makes little difference to turnout although it does appear to be linked with undertaking a range of wider campaign activities.
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