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Gender and Political Campaigning via Social Media: How do female political actors make usage of social media?

Elections
Parliaments
Campaign
Candidate
Internet
Daniela Braun
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Daniela Braun
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Eva-Maria Euchner
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Sanja Hajdinjak
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU

Abstract

Social media restructures political communication by replacing the classic media logic of one-to-many with the principle of many-to-one. Initially, social media has been considered as the great equalizer for social inequalities such as gender and social class. Nonetheless, the cursory overview shows that gender inequalities seem to be quite persistent: the usage of social media in political communication produces similar gender inequalities compared to pre-digital times. A systematic comparative approach for a larger set of (European) countries, however, is still lacking. Accordingly, our paper seeks to study how female politicians use Twitter in the 2019 election campaigns in the run-up of the elections to the European Parliament (EP). In view of the fact that the EP is considered to be more equal than national parliaments, elections to the EP offer a conservative testing strategy of gender inequalities in political campaigning. Empirically, we compare the number, length, and retweets of female party actors in comparison to their male counterparts and seek to understand whether the differences are due to structural factors such as party affiliation, party position, the share of women in a country/party, or gender policies. To do this, we rely on the novel ‘Twitter in the 2019 EP election campaigns dataset’ (Stier et al. 2020) in combination with contextual data. Our findings show no statistical difference between male and female candidates in terms of mere Twitter usage but offer interesting insights on gender issues related to length and retweets.