The rise of new political actors like The Five Star Movement in Italy or Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany and new campaigning strategies like micro-targeting are reasons why social media are broadly discussed in the media, in politics and in science. Building upon a broad expertise in political communication research, CamforS focusses on how traditional and new political actors use social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to inform, interact with, and mobilize voters, as well as which target audiences they address during the European Election Campaign 2019. Based on the theoretical approach developed in the joint article “Campaigning in the Fourth Age of Political Communication” (Magin, Podschuweit, Haßler, & Russmann, 2017) and combining quantitative and qualitative analyses, we will compare the social media campaigns of political parties from eight countries: Austria, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Sweden. This approach enables us to detect general trends instead of investigating national idiosyncrasies. A combination of three levels of analysis provides us with the opportunity to apply elaborated methods of comparative analyses, for example multilevel modelling and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA):
(1) Macro-level. The country selection bases on systematic cross-national variations which allows us to identify macro-structural influences on political campaigning: The eight countries vary concerning their political systems, media systems, government compositions, influence on the European level, and geographic positioning within Europe (Northern, Western, Southern, Eastern, Central Europe). Since we expect that migration will be one of the core issues of the European Election Campaign, our country selection considers, furthermore, the countries’ varying political positions towards the European refugee crisis, actual numbers of admitted refugees, and attitudes of the population towards migration.
(2) Meso-level. Our sample includes the Facebook pages of all political parties and top candidates (with chances to enter the European Parliament) from the eight countries which enables us to systematically investigate the influence of meso-level factors such as year of foundation, party size, financial resources, status as a government or opposition party at the national level, party ideology, and party vs. candidate. In this context, we will devote special attention to the campaigns of populist parties: Many of these parties extensively use social media as alternative channels for reaching the audience, trying to bypass the gatekeeping and critique of the journalistic mass media. We are particularly interested in the specific techniques these parties use to address their audience on social media that is far above average compared to the other parties and – at least in some cases – also compared to the size of their electorate.
(3) Micro-level. Concerning the content of the posts, our goal is to use a (partly) standardized quantitative coding scheme where at least the central categories are identical in all countries. Categories will focus, for example, on populism (anti-elite stances), issue ownership, and appeals to interaction and/or mobilization. Furthermore, we are especially interested in the visual communication on social media since in the last years, pictures and (live-)videos are used more and more frequently. Thus, we focus, for example, on the emotionality of pictures and videos. Since the complexity of (audio-)visual content is difficult to analyze in depths by use of a standardized analysis, some of the pictures and videos will be object to a qualitative content analysis. Furthermore, automated analyses of texts will be tested in the German and Spanish context and can be adapted to other contexts afterwards.
Pawel Baranowski (University of Wroclaw, Poland)
Márton Bene (Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest)
Andrea Ceron (University of Milan, Italy)
Vicente Fenoll (University of Valencia, Spain)
Jörg Haßler (LMU Munich, Germany)
Simon Kruschinski (JGU Mainz, Germany)
Anders Olof Larsson (Kristiania University College, Oslo, Norway)
Melanie Magin (NTNU, Trondheim, Norway)
Uta Rußmann (FHWien der WKW, Vienna, Austria)