A Canandian E-lection 2008? Online Media and Political Competition
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This paper examines the use and impact of internet submedia on the 2008 Canadian federal election. Based on content analysis of party and candidate use of different internet submedia during the campaign, combined with survey and interview data, the paper explores the application of online media across a range of political actors (individual candidates, institutionalized political parties, and civil society organizations). It examines two broad areas of interest: the extent to which online media was employed, either ad hoc or as an integrated element within wider campaigning, in the election; and the role of online media in extending or closing the access gap between major and minor political parties (the so-called “democratization versus normalization debate; Margolis and Resnick, 2000:26). The research demonstrates a mixed picture of the role of online media in the 2008 Canadian federal election. Structural, human and financial resources can be identified as advantaging established parties access both conventional and online media, in a way demonstrating the complex relationship between offline and online media. By taking a broader approach to examining the “presence” of political candidates online, the research demonstrates an equalization in access to online representation, but with distinct variations in the use of different online submedia by established and minor parties, and interesting variations between French speakers and other Canadians. As with comparative research in other Westminister democracies, the research demonstrates a considerable practice gab between “optimal” and actual levels of deployment of online media in close political races, but identifies areas where political parties and campaign professionals are actively engaging with online communities to project their messages.