Adela Rapeanu, University of Bucharest
The medium is the message, Marshall McLuhan once said. He couldn’t be more right in the age of the Internet and social media. According to Phil Noble, Barack Obama’s online campaign coordinator in 2008, Obama’s success is due to the Internet: “It was a revolution in the American politics (…) social media moved the political struggle from public manifestations to the comfort of your home armchair” . Nevertheless, there are numerous critics of the Internet as a modern days’ agora. As a paradox, some say that the larger the public space, the lesser possible for individuals to participate because of its excessive fragmentation. In other words, the Internet and social media helped recover the social dialogue, but made it harder to settle a public agenda .
On the other hand, it is impossible to deny that the Internet and the social media – Facebook, twitter, linkedIn, hi5 etc. have given politicians the chance to reach a public so far distant and quite unpersuadable: the young. In 2008, Internet World Stats counted over 7 million Romanian users, of which 5.5 million had a right to vote (over 30% of the total voting citizens). The most active are Romanians aged less than 24 (22%), followed by the ones 25 to 29 years old (16%) and 30 to 34 (14%). Still, over 40% of the Romanian youngsters don’t know who to vote for or whether they will vote at all at the next elections .
Given the fact that women's representation in Romania remains one of the lowest in the EU (9%, according to the European Commission ), I aim to investigate whether one can predict a change in the political landscape in the next elections, based on the popularity of women politicians in the social media. The research objectives are to establish whether certain segments of citizens, namely female electors, are more vocal and participative in social networks than they are in other public debates and in classic media coverage.
My research is both quantitative (statistics monitoring the number of fans, friends, likes and demographics of those) and qualitative (discourse analysis on the wall posts and comments). The analyzed corpus: Facebook pages of 10 Romanian women politicians, monitored over 30 days (1st-31st of March 2011).