Abstract and Keywords
The Internet has undoubtedly become, in this last decade, an important new arena for political communication. Nonetheless, during electoral campaigns, the use of this medium poses both challenges and advantages for the institutional communication made by political parties and candidates. An often-overlooked advantage is the possibility, particularly on social media, for parties and candidates to bypass journalists and communicate directly to a large and varied audience. This aspect is particularly relevant since the literature has been noting, in the last decades, a decline in the salience of substantive political information in the mainstream news coverage of political events. By comparing the political actors’ campaigns on social media with press news coverage of those campaigns, this chapter examines the role and impact of the Internet on modern political communication. An extensive content analysis of four electoral campaigns in four different countries (United States, Italy, Brazil, and Portugal) shows that candidates’ and parties’ online campaigns, compared to news articles in the press, tend to be more frequently framed in terms of substantive political issues. Even though there are differences between political actors and the social media platforms used (Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube), the results suggest that, overall, candidates and parties do actually try to convey substantive political information when communicating directly to the electorate. Furthermore, compared to articles in the press, social media campaigns also tend to be less frequently framed in terms of conflict, political scandals, and strategy aspects.
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