ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

'Crystallized Complexity Online? The Case of Interest Groups and UK Electoral Reform.''

Henry Allen
Matthias Braendli
University of Zurich
Open Panel

Abstract

As a result of the recent creation of a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in Britain, electoral reform has been put on the agenda, with a referendum on the subject about to be called. This will be the second ever referendum in the UK, the first – on membership of the EC - since 1975. This provides a unique opportunity to analyse the extent of interest group mobilisation in a political and cultural context that has changed relativity little, but in a technological context that has seen significant developments. While there have been groups fighting for electoral reform in Britain for over 100 years, a number of new groups have emerged during the recent debate – including those opposed to any change. Examples are the “Take Back Parliament” campaign, and the “No to AV” campaign which are broad-based networks of groups. Our paper examines how do these new actors use the Internet to mobilize and how social media are implemented in their campaigns? We hypothesize, in line with Bimber et al. (2009), that the Internet facilitates organization among different types and varieties of interests. In this respect does the Internet promote organizational fecundity both within individual groups and across networks and organizations? Is the result a greater complexity in the polity? We present findings from an analysis of digital campaign material (websites, email circulars and SNS), and from interviews conducted with those involved in online communication within the various active groups. The opportunity to compare the activity and organization of the groups in question, with those of the last national British referendum, which similarly cut across conventional party lines, will allow us to evaluate the impact of changes in political communication, attributable to ICTs, upon a broadly similar political system.