Digital Politics in Western Democracies
A Comparative Study
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Across the Western world, the internet has become a crucial platform for po-liti cal interaction between citizens and the parties and candidates that court them. As a result, the role, function, and potential impact of digital media have been the subject of widespread interest among politicians and the pro-fessionals who work for them, among journalists, and among academics. The ...
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This book is the result of seven years of research and more than ten years of study. Throughout all this time, the number and value of the intellectual and personal debts that I have been fortunate enough to accumulate are enormous and diffi cult to properly recognize in a few words. The following thoughts will thus have to be metonymic— expressing only a small part for the whole ...
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On 17 October 2005, more than four million supporters of the Italian co ali tion of center- left parties fl ocked to improvised polling stations across the country to select Romano Prodi, a former prime minister and chairman of the Eu ro pe an Commission, as the co ali tion’s prime ministe-rial candidate for the upcoming general elections. The massive turnout im-pressed politicians, journalists, and citizens, revealing that a great desire to participate was widespread among Italian progressive voters. A few weeks ...
PART I: Theoretical Issues and Research Questions
2 Understanding Digital Politics in Western Democracies
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Although parties and politicians worldwide eagerly attempt to emulate American innovations in digital politics, transplanting online tools outside the United States has rarely achieved the desired goals. How-ever, most of the scholars who have studied these subjects have taken the United States as their lone empirical referent or main reference point, which has resulted in a limited understanding of these phenomena, as the peculiar characteristics of the American po liti cal and social systems have often been ...
3 Parties and the Internet
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There is broad scholarly consensus on the idea that “parties have adapted more quickly to new media technologies than to any previous technological advance” (Ward 2008: 1– 2). From bulletin boards to email, from websites to audiovisual content, from blogs to social media, most parties and candidates have hastened to establish a presence on any genre of On the other hand, a similarly broad agreement exists among researchers that institutional po liti cal actors have missed most of the opportunities of-...
4 Citizens and the Internet
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Although po liti cal elites’ uses of the internet importantly structure the fi eld of digital politics, citizens ultimately determine their success by employing or avoiding online po liti cal tools. Thus, an important line of research on internet politics has focused on the causes and consequences of citizens’ information and participation on the web. Many studies have mod-eled internet use as an in de pen dent variable and have tried to estimate its ef-fects on po liti cal knowledge, interest, and participation (for a useful review, ...
PART II: Parties and Digital Politics
5 Structure and Features of Political Websites
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In the 2008 Spanish general elections, incumbent prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) faced Pop u lar Party’s (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy in a close contest. As the fi rst national election after the surprising 2004 win by the Socialists, which many believed had been fostered by the digital mobilization that followed the terrorist attacks in Madrid three days before the election (Dader 2008), there were high expectations that a vibrant campaign would take place ...
6 Disparities in Political Websites
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Together with liberty, equality is one of the two core principles that democracy strives to achieve and maintain (Sartori 1987). Preoccupa-tions with equality have been a constant thread in discussions about the role of the internet in po liti cal communication and democracy (for a re-view, see Chadwick 2006: 168– 173). Sources of online inequalities among po liti cal actors can be located at the meso and macro levels of inquiry. At the or gan i za tion al level, I show that parties’ and candidates’ online efforts are in ...
7 Party Characteristics and Their Online Presence
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If digital inequalities are tied more strongly to differences between parties (in terms of size and resources) than between countries (in terms of dif-fusion of internet access among the population), what role is played by three other party- level characteristics— highlighted in chapter 3— such as in-Various scholars have suggested that out- of- power parties and candidates may be expected to be more innovative than incumbents in their communica-tions and thus more eager to adopt digital media. The most refi ned and nu-...
8 What Drives the Online Presence of Parties and Candidates?
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In the previous chapters, we have looked at how parties and candidates structure their websites and found that, rather than rushing to include all theoretically available functions, they selectively decide which fea-tures to employ and which ones to forgo. Contrary to many earlier observa-tions, they do not necessarily prioritize top- down information tools at the expense of bottom- up participation opportunities, but the functions that are most common have to do with the design and delivery of website contents. ...
PART III: Citizens and Digital Politics
9 Online Political Information in Seven Countries
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Democracy requires that citizens possess adequate knowledge of public affairs to cast an informed vote and keep government accountable (Norris 2000). However, most voters do not acquire and constantly up-date as much po liti cal information as would be ideally desirable (Delli Car-pini and Keeter 1996; Hibbing and Thesis- Morse 2002); instead, they behave as “cognitive misers” (Fiske and Taylor 1984), retrieving, pro cessing, and stor-ing only limited amounts of information. This strategy can be seen as ratio-...
10 Socioeconomic Inequalities and Online Political Information
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Using the survey data shown in the previous chapter, we can assess the extent to which the use of the internet for po liti cal information varies among individuals of different social backgrounds and according to their po liti cal preferences, propensity to participate in politics, and media usage. Focusing fi rst on socioeconomic inequalities in the seven countries included in this study, I analyze how gender, race, age, education, and income affect the extent to which citizens go online to acquire information about ...
11 Political Attitudes and Online Information
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Political interest and motivations are among the most important deter-minants of citizens’ engagement and participation in politics and civic life. As Verba, Schlozman, and Brady (1995) suggest, “I don’t want to” is one of the most common reasons why citizens opt out of the public sphere. In a discussion of the causal determinants of voter turnout, for instance, An-dré Blais (2007: 633) concludes, “The decision to vote or not to vote hinges on many considerations but the two most important ones appear to be whether ...
12 Political Engagement, Mass Media Use, and Online Information
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In looking at online po liti cal information as a fi rst step in the ladder of po liti cal engagement, this chapter focuses on the relationship between online information and other forms of offl ine engagement such as po liti-cal discussion, po liti cal participation, and po liti cal information through the mass media. Shedding light on these patterns can allow us not only to assess how citizens in Western democracies are integrating the internet within their repertoires of po liti cal information and engagement but also to under-...
13 Correlates of Online Political Information in Seven Democracies
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Having considered how socioeconomic status, po liti cal culture, po liti cal preferences, po liti cal engagement, and mass media use correlate with voters’ propensity to acquire po liti cal information through the internet, we can complete the analysis by comparing the results of multivariate logistic regression models across the seven countries included in this study, high-lighting the similarities and differences among these po liti cal systems. Table 13.1 shows the results of a qualitative meta- analysis that, for each in de pen-...
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This journey across both the party- controlled supply and citizen- driven demand sides of digital politics in seven important Western democra-cies has highlighted various relevant developments of online po liti cal communication. In this concluding chapter, I summarize them and suggest ways in which future research could further the work that has been pre-sented here. In a nutshell, these considerations have to do with the role of the American model in the theory and practice of politics online; the impor-...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 9 graphs
Publication Year: 2013