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Electoral mobilisation by Online Citizens? A Content Analysis of the Twitter Space during the Dutch Parliamentary Election Campaign 2012

Bengu Dayican
Universiteit Twente
Kees Aarts
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Adrie Dassen
Bengu Dayican
Universiteit Twente

Abstract

To what extent do citizens exploit the mobilization potential of social media for electoral participation, and how do they use them for this purpose? In this paper we address these questions by analyzing Twitter data within the context of a national election campaign. Utilizing social media data to explore the influence of Web 2.0 networks on mobilization of political activism has become common practice in the past years. Yet the bulk of this research has focused upon the mobilizing use of these media by citizens for organizing protest activities (e.g. González-Bailón et al. 2011; Segerberg and Bennett 2011; Theocharis 2011). These studies have repeatedly shown that message posting on Twitter aimed at informing and mobilizing others is an efficient tool in organizing protest. However, the extent to which this medium is used by citizens for the mobilization of electoral participation has remained somewhat unattended in the literature. Similar to the context of protest events, Twitter can be adopted during an election campaign by citizens for persuading their followers by disseminating and/or exchanging information, spreading campaign slogans, providing links to relevant online information about election candidates and issues; as well as conducting to some extent negative campaigning by posting cynical contents about other parties and candidates. This paper therefore explores the extent and content of citizens’ use of Twitter space to conduct such activities. We use data collected from Twitter using an open-source data crawler during the Dutch parliamentary election campaign 2012, as part of a multi-disciplinary research project funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. By conducting content analyses of Tweets and of the hyperlinked online media coverage, we aim to contribute to the understanding of how novel online communication tools can also help to facilitate traditional participation.