Tactical Web Use in Bumpy Times – A Comparison of Conservative Parties’ Digital Presence
In: Barbera, Oscar; Correa, Patricia; Sandri, Giulia; Teruel Rodriguez, Juan: Cyber-parties. Offline-online Hybridization Patterns and Consequences (2019)
16 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2019 Last revised: 18 Mar 2020
Date Written: September 16, 2019
Facing the ubiquitous and asynchronous nature of digital communication and interaction, parties face the challenge to migrate to some extent into the digital (Fitzpatrick 2018). This is not the case for election campaigns, but for the time in-between elections due to reasons for raising funds and other resources. These processes often rely on the digital sphere. Parties are not only challenged by relocating their communication strategies in normal times into new vessels, but also to encounter increased interactional demands by their target groups - members and supporters (Scarrow 2015). This comes along with the well-researched decline of established parties due to different societal causes (van Biezen, Poguntke 2014; Whiteley 2011, Montigny 2015). Parties’ adaptation of information and communication technologies (ICT) poses another challenge: How to migrate into the digital without losing those who are already engaged offline? How can parties manage to get the best out of both worlds – online and offline – and meet the demands of their adherents? These questions are connected to the research of intra-party democracy (e.g. Close et al. 2017; Faucher and Boy 2018; Bernardi et al. 2017) and leadership (Poguntke and Webb 2005; Musella 2018) as well as to research on parties’ virtual presence (e.g. Römmele 2003).
We seek to understand how parties operate online in terms of building relationships between the organization and its members as well as fostering relationships between individual adherents. To grasp what is going on, we analyze parties’ websites and Facebook fan pages. We follow a comparative approach by conducting a pair-comparison. Our cases are the British Conservative Party and the German Christian Democratic Union with a panel data set from 2013 to 2018. Both parties hold governmental responsibility and face national turmoil within their countries. We analyze websites because we assume them serving as a hub of information and exchange for members and supporters. This allows us to investigate how both channels of ICTs are used either to disseminate information or to establish dialogue and discourse on platform media.
Keywords: digital parties, election campaigning, party communication, website analysis, facebook
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