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Digital Traditions? Social Media Adoption in Traditional and Modern Campaigns During the 2010 UK General Election

Benjamin Lee
University of Lancaster
Benjamin Lee
University of Lancaster
Open Panel

Abstract

The emergence of social media and its focus on user participation in particular has ramifications for many facets of campaigning, possibly influencing the way campaigns are organised and how they engage with the electorate. This paper aims to investigate what type of local campaigns used social media during the 2010 UK General Election. It asks two questions: • How widely was social media used at the local level in the UK 2010 General Election and by which campaigns? • How influential is offline campaign type in the adoption social media compared to other factors? In considering the adoption of social media, this paper examines the influence of offline campaign type in addition to factors identified by previous work. Campaigns are categorised as being either traditional or modernised based on indices developed by Fisher and Denver (2009) and recreated using data from a survey of electoral agents. The central hypothesis of the paper is that offline campaign will be related to the online campaign. The interaction afforded by social media will make it a feature of traditional campaigns that rely on interacting with potential voters on the doorstep. Modernised campaigns will be less likely to adopt social media as their strategies are orientated toward conveying pre-determined messages using tools such as direct mail. The interactive aspects of social media may make it a poor fit for modernised campaigns, but a possible source of support for traditional ones.