Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Campaigning Online: Social Media in the 2010 Niagara Municipal Elections

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Campaigning Online: Social Media in the 2010 Niagara Municipal Elections

Article excerpt

Abstract

Although social media have become an increasing feature in Canadian electoral politics and have been given increased attention in research on Canadian political communication, the use of social media in municipal elections has yet to be thoroughly studied. This paper employs a quantitative analysis to assess the extent and effectiveness of social media use by candidates during the 2010 Niagara municipal elections. The types of content posted online, the level of interaction between candidates and voters, and the impact on electoral success are examined. An interaction scale developed for this study helps gauge the level of interactivity between candidates and voters. Although it is determined that social media were being used during the campaigns, the interaction between candidates and voters was low. There are differences in electoral success for incumbents and challengers and a positive correlation is identified between the success of challenger candidates and the number of Facebook "likes" and posts. Conversely, the use of social media has a negative correlation with success for incumbents. A number of directions for future research on social media in municipal campaigns are suggested.

Keywords: elections, political campaigns, social media, interactivity

Resume

Les medias sociaux occupent une presence accrue dans la politique electorale canadienne et font de plus en plus l'objet de recherches sur la communication politique canadienne. Toutefois, l'utilisation des medias sociaux dans les campagnes electorales municipales est un sujet encore peu etudie. Cette recherche a recours a une analyse quantitative afin dexaminer lefficacite et l'ampleur de l'utilisation des medias sociaux par les candidats a l'election municipale de 2010 a Niagara. Elle examine le type de contenu publie en ligne, le niveau d'interaction entre les candidats et les electeurs ainsi que l'incidence sur le succes electoral. Une echelle d'interaction a ete developpee afin de mesurer le niveau d'interaction entre les candidats et les electeurs. Meme si les medias sociaux ont ete utilises pendant la campagne, l'interaction entre les candidats et les electeurs etait faible. DifFerents niveaux de succes electoral ont ete identifies pour les candidats sortants et les candidats aspirants. Une relation positive entre le succes des candidats aspirants et le nombre de << j'aime >> et de commentaires sur Facebook a ete identifiee. A l'oppose, une relation negative a ete trouvee entre l'utilisation des medias sociaux et le succes des candidats sortants. Des orientations pour la recherche future sur l'utilisation des medias sociaux dans les campagnes electorales municipales sont proposees.

Mots cles: elections municipales, medias sociaux

Introduction

Studies on the use of social media in Canadian federal politics, as well as on the political discussion taking place on the popular #cdnpoli Twitter hashtag, have proliferated in recent years (Small 2008b; Small 2011, Chen and Smith 2011; and Small 2008a). However, within this new field of study, elections have been given minimal attention. Social media may contribute to political success because of the opportunity provided to candidates to have continued interaction with voters in a scale and intensity not possible through more traditional campaign methods (i.e. door-to-door campaigning, leafleting, print or television coverage). In addition, there are no direct costs associated with using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube and the platforms are user-friendly for individuals with minimal computer skills. However, within research on social media use during elections (e.g. Goodman and Copeland 2010; Raynauld and Greenberg 2014), the impact of social media on political success has not been widely explored.

This article analyzes the use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and campaign websites by a selection of municipal candidates in the Niagara region, Ontario. …

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