Vaccari, C., University of Bologna
This paper investigates the characteristics of parties’ websites during the campaign for the 2009 European Parliament elections. The study focuses on five Western European countries (England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain) and covers a total of fifty-five websites, which were analyzed twice in the last two months before the vote. The analysis was conducted through a standard coding scheme modeled after Gibson and Ward’s (2000) seminal proposal and expanded in order to account for the developments in e-campaigning that have occurred thereafter. Website features are divided into two main categories: those that provide information to users and those that facilitate their participation to the campaign both online and offline.
The goals of this study are, first, to offer an updated mapping of the state of the art in Western European online campaigning and, second, to discover which variables affect the characteristics of party websites. This goal is achieved through regression analyses that correlate indexes measuring the amount of information and participation features in parties’ websites with variables that measure countries’ technological development as well as individual parties’ resources, ideology, and governing status. Preliminary results indicate that technological development and resources are positively correlated with the amount of characteristics that can be found on parties’ websites. Moreover, left-wing parties and non-incumbent parties seem to offer more sophisticated websites than the others.