School of Computing
Ms Terry King
- Role Title: Research Student
- Address: Buckingham Building, Lion Terrace, Portsmouth (UK) PO1 3HE
- Telephone: +44 (0) 23 9284 6400
- Email: Terry.King@port.ac.uk
- Department: School of Computing
- Faculty: Faculty of Technology
With the very low voter turnout in the 2012 Local Government Elections in the UK and a recent Guardian ICM poll reporting that only 53% of people were certain to vote at the next UK General Election, research into political participation could not be more timely. This research project seeks to explore the relationship between various modes of online campaigning and levels of political engagement and mobilisation.
The results of past research in this area have been instructive. Bimber and Davis (2003) demonstrated that the tendency for selective engagement amongst voters, where they seek out information that reinforces their existing beliefs, results in political websites talking largely to the converted and cannot change minds or bring people in. Foot and Schneider (2006) continued aspects of this research and developed a model which considered the involving and mobilizing role of web campaigning, which engaged voters through empowerment. Stromer-Galley (2009) considering aspects of the Barak Obama 2008 USA Presidential election – often described as the Web 2.0 Election – demonstrated the success of the empowerment of supporters through the co-production of election materials, of engagement through the interaction provided by social networking sites, and, most importantly, of the offline mobilization of that support through volunteering in the community and activities to get out the vote on election day.
This research will seek to build on these studies and use a practice-based approach, within an action-research framework over several cycles of election activity in the UK, to investigate the extent of political engagement engendered by political websites and their related social media sites, such as Facebook pages and groups as well as dedicated YouTube channels, and the facilities such sites offer to inform voters, link them to a wide range of relevant materials, and encourage involvement through entry forms and email list subscription. Of critical importance to this research will be the subsequent mobilisation of that online engagement in both an online form, particularly through co-production and linking, and offline as demonstrated in volunteering for campaigning activity, as only such participation can ultimately reshape the democratic process for the better.
This research has been subjected to ethical review by the Faculty of Technology Ethical Review Committee according to the standards for ethical review of research laid down by the University of Portsmouth.
Bimber, B. & Davis, R. (2003). Campaigning online: the Internet in U.S. elections. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Foot, K. A. & Schneider, S. M. (2006). Web campaigning. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press
Stromer-Galley, J. (2009).The Web 2.0 Election. In Anstead, N., Straw, W. (Eds), The change we need: what Britain can learn from Obama’s victory, London: Fabian Society.
King, T. (2012). Can the Web influence political participation? Poster presented at University of Portsmouth, Faculty of Technology, Research Day, 28 June.