The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Gibson, Cantijoch, Ward: Online citizen-campaigning in the UK General Election of 2010: how did citizens use new technologies to get involved?

Paper presenter: 
Gibson, R., Institute for Social Change, University of Manchester; Cantijoch, M., University of Manchester; Ward, S., University of Salford

This paper will use original data from a national opinion post-election survey of the UK public during the 2010 election to examine the extent and nature of citizen involvement in the campaign via online technologies. The paper will start by presenting an overview of individuals' web use during the campaign and how far this involved visits to/use of official and non-official sites and web 2.0 resources such as blogs and social networking sites. Taking the model of the Obama-inspired e-activism that emerged during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, the paper will then seek to develop a scale of e-participation during the campaign, measuring the intensity of citizen engagement with both the formal and informal side of the campaign. In doing so, the paper will move beyond measures of basic e-participation to profile the extent of a specific form of 'citizen-campaigning' whereby volunteers and supporters use online technologies to help the party in raising awareness of its message and 'get out the vote' efforts (following the Obama campaign model). Moreover, in the 2005 campaign, Norris and Curtice’s (2008) survey data suggested that the potential of the internet may lie with its indirect effects, notably activating activists who then use traditional methods to engage wider public or discuss the campaign with them.

Overall, the findings will be used to assess:

(1) the extent to which such techniques can work in the UK environment, given the very different nature of the campaign and media environment;

(2) how far citizen online participation has changed since the 2005 campaign where, for the most part, the Internet was a relatively marginal tool, e.g. the extent to which newer web 2.0 tools impacted on campaign, and finally;

(3) their likely effectiveness in longer term 'peace time' mobilization efforts by the parties.