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Tweets from the Campaign Trail

Researching Candidates’ Use of Twitter During the European Parliamentary Elections

by Alex Frame (Volume editor) Arnaud Mercier (Volume editor) Gilles Brachotte (Volume editor) Caja Thimm (Volume editor)
Conference proceedings 274 Pages
Open Access

Summary

Hailed by many as a game-changer in political communication, Twitter has made its way into election campaigns all around the world. The European Parliamentary elections, taking place simultaneously in 28 countries, give us a unique comparative vision of the way the tool is used by candidates in different national contexts. This volume is the fruit of a research project bringing together scholars from 6 countries, specialised in communication science, media studies, linguistics and computer science. It seeks to characterise the way Twitter was used during the 2014 European election campaign, providing insights into communication styles and strategies observed in different languages and outlining methodological solutions for collecting and analysing political tweets in an electoral context.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • General Introduction (Frame, Alex / Mercier, Arnaud / Brachotte, Gilles / Thimm, Caja)
  • This volume: Twitter as a political practice
  • References:
  • Online Sources:
  • Part 1: Studying Tweet campaigns: methodological issues
  • 1. SNFreezer: a Platform for Harvesting and Storing Tweets in a Big Data Context (Leclercq, Éric / Savonnet, Marinette / Grison, Thierry / Kirgizov, Sergey / Basaille, Ian)
  • 1.1 Introduction and Objectives
  • 1.2 New Paradigms for Data Management Systems
  • 1.3 SNFreezer Architecture
  • 1.3.1 The Storage System
  • 1.3.2 Storing Tweets
  • Tweet Relational Database Schema
  • 1.3.3 Tweet Graph Database
  • 1.3.4 Cluster Mode and Fail Over
  • 1.4 Connection with Analysis Tools and Web Applications
  • 1.5 Conclusion
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • 2. Families of practices. A bottom-up approach to differentiate how French candidates made use of Twitter during the 2014 European Campaign (Compagno, Dario)
  • 2.1 Introduction and rationale
  • 2.2 Corpus and methodology
  • 2.3 Exploration and clustering
  • 2.4 Interpretation of the clusters
  • 2.5 Structuring the Tweeting practices of French candidates
  • 2.6 Associations between clusters and tweeting interfaces
  • 2.7 Associations between clusters and political parties
  • 2.8 Classification of tweets based on textual analysis
  • 2.9 Conclusion
  • References
  • 3. Exploring the dialogical dimension of political tweets: A qualitative analysis of ‘Twitter styles’ of UK candidates during the 2014 EU Parliamentary Elections (Kondrashova, Tatiana / Frame, Alex)
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 Twitter styles revisited
  • 3.3 Methodology & results
  • 3.4 Results and Analysis
  • 3.4.1 The operator @
  • 3.4.2 The operator RT
  • 3.4.3 The operator #
  • 3.4.4  Use of media
  • 3.4.5 The use of links (http)
  • 3.5 Discussion and conclusions
  • References
  • 4. Twitter et la politique : stratégies de communication de candidats et espace public (Novello Paglianti, Nanta)
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 Le cadre de la recherche
  • 4.3 Twitter: structure, matérialité et fonctionnalités
  • 4.4 Twitter en action : focus sur les fonctions communicationnelles
  • 4.5 Le tweet politique
  • 4.6 Un rappel des bonnes pratiques
  • 4.7 Analyses des pratiques des candidats : le cas E. Forenza
  • 4.7.1 Le- re-tweet de E. Forenza
  • 4.8 Le cas d’I. Adinolfi
  • 4.9 Vers des pratiques « transmédiatiques » ?
  • Références bibliographiques
  • Part 2: Tweet campaign argumentation
  • 5. Les figures de l’ennemi dans les tweets-polémiques des forces protestataires françaises durant la campagne de mai 2014 (Mercier, Arnaud)
  • 5.1 Twitter, un excellent outil de polémique électorale
  • 5.2 Analyse statistique croisée des tweet-campagnes protestataires françaises
  • 5.3 Les figures de l’ennemi dans la rhétorique protestataire anti-européenne
  • 5.4 Des tweets-polémiques adossées à l’ironie et aux sarcasmes
  • 5.5 Conclusion
  • Références bibliographiques
  • 6. Les discours sur l’Europe dans la tweet-campagne en Italie (Villa, Marina)
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 Les tweets des candidats
  • 6.3 Les contenus de la tweet-campagne
  • 6.3.1 Le récit de la campagne sur le terrain et sur les plateaux télévisés
  • 6.3.2 L’émergence du thème de l’immigration
  • 6.3.3 L’ennemi allemand
  • 6.3.4 Les ennemis internes
  • 6.4 Les tweets sur l’Europe : un discours conflictuel
  • 6.4.1 Contre l’euro
  • 6.4.2 Contre l’Europe
  • 6.4.3 Contre les europtimistes et les “terroristes pro-euro”
  • 6.4.4 Pour l’Europe
  • 6.5 Quelques représentations négatives et positives de l’Europe
  • 6.6 Discours polémiques et traces d’un débat sur l’Europe
  • Références bibliographiques
  • 7. Love Britain? Vote UKIP! The Pragmatics of Electoral Tweets during the European Elections 2014 (Albu, Elena)
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 The Political Discourse on Twitter
  • 7.2.1 Twitter as a Communication Tool
  • 7.2.2 The Use of Micro-blogging in Political Communication
  • 7.2.3 Literature Overview
  • 2014 European Elections on Twitter
  • 7.3 The Linguistics of the Call for Action Tweets
  • 7.3.1 General Description
  • 7.3.2 Corpus and Method of Analysis
  • 7.3.3 Vote UKIP
  • 7.3.4 Content analysis
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Part 3: Integration of Twitter in political strategies in different national contexts
  • 8. Élections européennes de mai 2014 : étude des données du corpus français de TEE 2014 afin d’appréhender les usages des candidats et la circulation de l’information sur Twitter (Junger, Frédéric / Brachotte, Gilles)
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Quelques données sur la tweet-campagne
  • 1.1.1 Résultats sur les partis politiques
  • (i) Partis les plus actifs
  • (ii) Partis ayant fait le plus de retweets
  • (iii) Hashtags les plus utilisés par les partis
  • 8.3 Les résultats concernant les candidats
  • (i) Candidats les plus actifs sur Twitter
  • (ii) Candidats ayant fait le plus de retweets
  • 8.4 Appréhender la circulation de l’information sur Twitter, exemple et perspectives
  • 8.5 Conclusion
  • Références bibliographiques
  • 9. Twitter during the 2014 European Elections in Germany – Analyzing politicians’ campaigning strategies (Thimm, Caja / Einspänner-Pflock, Jessica / Anastasiadis, Mario)
  • 9.1 Mediatized politics and the European elections
  • 9.2. Twitter and political campaigning
  • 9.3 Analyzing campaign strategies of German EU-candidates on Twitter
  • 9.3.1 German EU Politicians’ Twitter activity
  • 9.3.2 Patterns of politicians’ Twitter usage during the European Election campaign 2014
  • (1) Passive Twitter presence
  • (2) Informing & Broadcasting
  • (3) On-the-scene and live-reportage
  • (4) Self-promotion
  • (5) Negative Campaigning
  • (6) Creating Mini Publics
  • (7) Interacting on the public Twitter stage
  • (8) Emphasizing and establishing supranational political alliances
  • 9.4 Conclusion and Outlook
  • References
  • 10. Twitter and double screen in Italy during the 2014 European elections (Cobianchi, Vittorio / Murru, Maria Francesca / Villa, Marina)
  • 10.1 Introduction
  • 10.2 Social Television
  • 10.3 Television in the tweets of EU candidates
  • 10.3.1 The presence of the topic “television”
  • 10.3.2 The content of the tweets about TV
  • 10.4 Case analysis: interview with Beppe Grillo, leader of the M5S
  • 10.4.1 The argumentative plan
  • 10.4.2 The flow of tweets
  • 10.4.3 Thematic trend
  • 10.5 Conclusions
  • References
  • 11. Pablo Iglesias’ Tweeting Style: Unsuccessfully Aspiring to Renew Spanish Political Discourse (Vizcaino, Fernando Bonete / Guinovart,Elena Cebrián / Barrio, Tamara Vázquez)
  • 11.1 Introduction
  • 11.2 Tweeting style: the account’s activity
  • 11.3 Account content: themes and intentions
  • 11.4 Interaction: from citizens to Pablo Iglesias
  • 11.5 Conclusions
  • References
  • List of Contributors

Alex Frame / Arnaud Mercier / Gilles Brachotte / Caja Thimm (eds.)

Tweets from the Campaign Trail

Researching Candidates’ Use of Twitter During the European Parliamentary Elections

About the author

Alex Frame is Associate Professor in Communication Science at the University of Burgundy (Dijon) where he works within the TIL research group (EA4182).

Arnaud Mercier is Professor in Communication Science and member of the French Press Institute (IFP, Paris).

Gilles Brachotte is Associate Professor in Communication Science at the University of Burgundy (Dijon) and member of the CIMEOS-3S research group (EA4177).

Caja Thimm is Professor in Media Studies and Intermediality at the University of Bonn.

About the book

Hailed by many as a game-changer in political communication, Twitter has made its way into election campaigns all around the world. The European Parliamentary elections, taking place simultaneously in 28 countries, give us a unique comparative vision of the way the tool is used by candidates in different national contexts. This volume is the fruit of a research project bringing together scholars from 6 countries, specialised in communication science, media studies, linguistics and computer science. It seeks to characterise the way Twitter was used during the 2014 European election campaign, providing insights into communication styles and strategies observed in different languages and outlining methodological solutions for collecting and analysing political tweets in an electoral context.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Contents

Alex Frame, Arnaud Mercier, Gilles Brachotte & Caja Thimm

General Introduction

Part 1: Studying Tweet campaigns: methodological issues

Éric Leclercq, Marinette Savonnet, Thierry Grison, Sergey Kirgizov &
Ian Basaille

1. SNFreezer: a Platform for Harvesting and Storing Tweets in a Big Data Context

Dario Compagno

2. Families of practices. A bottom-up approach to differentiate how French candidates made use of Twitter during the 2014 European Campaign

Tatiana Kondrashova & Alex Frame

3. Exploring the dialogical dimension of political tweets: A qualitative analysis of ‘Twitter styles’ of UK candidates during the 2014 EU Parliamentary Elections

Nanta Novello Paglianti

4. Twitter et la politique : stratégies de communication de candidats et espace public

Part 2: Tweet campaign argumentation

Arnaud Mercier

5. Les figures de l’ennemi dans les tweets-polémiques des forces protestataires françaises durant la campagne de mai 2014

Marina Villa

6. Les discours sur lEurope dans la tweet-campagne en Italie

Elena Albu

7. Love Britain? Vote UKIP! The Pragmatics of Electoral Tweets during the European Elections 2014←5 | 6→

Part 3: Integration of Twitter in political strategies in different national contexts

Frédéric Junger & Gilles Brachotte

8. Élections européennes de mai 2014 : étude des données du corpus français de TEE 2014 afin d’appréhender les usages des candidats et la circulation de l’information sur Twitter

Caja Thimm, Jessica Einspänner-Pflock & Mario Anastasiadis

9. Twitter during the 2014 European Elections in Germany – Analyzing politicians’ campaigning strategies

Vittorio Cobianchi, Maria Francesca Murru & Marina Villa

10. Twitter and double screen in Italy during the 2014
European elections

Fernando Bonete Vizcaino, Elena Cebrián Guinovart &
Tamara Vázquez Barrio

11. Pablo Iglesias’ Tweeting Style: Unsuccessfully Aspiring to Renew Spanish Political Discourse

List of Contributors←6 | 7→

Alex Frame, Arnaud Mercier, Gilles Brachotte & Caja Thimm

General Introduction

In the course of the past six to eight years, Twitter has rapidly imposed itself as one of the major digital PR tools used by politicians in many countries around the world, and in several cases, politicians and journalists have been early adopters (Grant, Moon, & Busby Grant, 2010). Much research carried out into the kinds of information tweeted by politicians, in various countries, suggests that the tool is often used by politicians principally for self-promotion, especially during electoral periods, in the traditional top-down style of political communication (Grant et al., 2010; Larsson & Kalsnes, 2014). As such, Twitter provides new impetus to the personalization of politics especially as its design, affordances and network structure allow politicians to “expand the political arena for increased personalized campaigning” (Enli & Skogerbø, 2013: 758). One reason for politicians’ self-presentation practices on Twitter is that of ‘easy marketing’: Especially during election times, candidates who have a Twitter presence are more likely to post their own messages rather than relying on a “well-resourced media staff” (Bruns & Highfield, 2013: 669). In the context of local campaigns, social media can also be used to promote the action of militants and to recruit new ones. The candidate congratulates them publicly, often by retweeting their messages and pictures (Mercier, 2015). In addition, Twitter’s functionality as a dynamic information distribution tool offers politicians the possibility to cross-promote and shape their online-identities, for example by linking to their personal blogs, Facebook pages or an online-newspaper article about them (Enli & Skogerbø, 2013).

Twitter’s information and networking function, which make political (self-)marketing opportune, is also seen as a key factor for politicians when interacting with others – especially on the institutional level. Strategic exchange with journalists, bloggers or fellow politicians is a central practice of politicians’ Twitter activity during election times (Nuernbergk & Conrad, 2016; Thimm, Anastasiadis, Bürger & Einspänner, 2014). In this context, several studies raise the concern that Twitter develops into an exclusive medium, which is–against the hopes of “e-democracy-enthusiasts”–mainly used among a well informed and well educated online-elite (Grant et al., 2010; Block, 2013; Ekman & Widholm, 2015) and thus reflects power inequalities known from the pre-internet era (Gerhards & Schäfer, 2010; Carpentier, 2012). However, while networks between “informed elites” like politicians and journalists on Twitter can be described as close, they are “not←7 | 8→ closed” (Verweij, 2012: 690): On the one hand, the Twitter public sphere seems to be dominated by the politically interested and engaged but on the other hand, “its influence extends far beyond” (Grant et al., 2010: 599). This means that one has to take into account the role of the passive participants on Twitter, so-called lurkers, who may not actively tweet or retweet but who read along and gather information relevant for their own deliberative processes. Yet Twitter research in this area still is an intention (e.g., Bechmann & Lomborg, 2013; Himmelboim, McCreery & Smith, 2013), as mapping and profiling “passive” audiences on social media is a difficult task. Moreover, between political elites and the passive audience, there is a category of Twitter users for whom the network is a tool for unconventional political participation. Derision towards the rulers and political forces, media criticism and the development of more participatory forms of engagement, are all ways of using Twitter as a counter public sphere (Mercier, 2016), and which often appear problematic to politicians and their staff.

Therefore, the focus of current political Twitter research is on the detectable, like structures and practices of politicians’ and users’ interaction. A central question in fact is that of Twitter as a more direct platform for dialogical communication between politicians and their voters; thus it is a question of Twitter’s potential as a tool for digital democracy. While politicians themselves often claim (or report an idealistic motivation) to use social media like Twitter for connecting with voters and discuss politics with them, studies show that they actually seldom manage to interact with them in practice (Enli & Skogerbø, 2013, Frame & Brachotte (eds), 2015, Thimm et al., 2016). Twitter has, up until now, only rarely been used by politicians to exchange information, debate or give insights into political processes (Golbeck, Grimes, & Rogers, 2010; Lawless, 2012; Vergeer & Hermans, 2013). However, some authors have found evidence of differing styles of Twitter use among politicians, depending on their personal profile (Dang-Anh, Einspänner, & Thimm, 2012; Thimm et al. 2016; Jackson & Lilleker, 2011; Sæbø, 2011) and others have proposed evidence of maturing patterns of usage (Frame & Brachotte, 2013; Grant et al., 2010), cross-media usage (Mercier, 2013) and of the influence of a small political elite within a national Twittersphere (Ausserhofer & Maireder, 2013; Grant et al., 2010).

All in all, the mediatization of politics (Block, 2013; Esser & Strömbäck, 2014; Thimm, Dang-Anh & Einspänner, 2014) and the underlying developments like politicians’ ubiquitous media presence, the high availability of political information and the various possibilities for “micro-participation” online might suggest an overall better accessibility of and interest in politics. However, when looked at the facts that testify “real political participation”, i.e., voter turnout, the low←8 | 9→ numbers in some western societies prove otherwise (Franklin, 2004; Blais, 2006). Reasons for increasing or decreasing voter turnout over time in various countries are mainly due to different variables like the respective voting system, voting age and rules (Franklin, 2004). While those institutional variables are set, much focus nowadays is on the practical question of how to mobilize voters and increase voter turnout – in short: on candidates’ campaigning efforts. The importance of a sophisticated campaigning strategy especially becomes visible in the US presidential elections, where candidates (and their campaign teams) virtuously employ all sorts of online and offline media in order to mobilize their voters (Burton, Miller & Shea, 2015; Benoit, 2016).

The European parliamentary elections can be considered a particular challenge for political candidates (Maarek, 2012), as EU elections in general attract less attention among media and citizens than national elections (De Vreese, Banducci, Semetko, & Boomgaarden, 2006). In 2009, overall voter turnout averaged a mere 43 % of over 375 million eligible European citizens. The 2014 EU elections even had the lowest voter turnout on record with 42.5 % (euroactiv.com) although it has been the largest election for the European Parliament that has ever been held with over 12,000 candidates from almost 450 parties from 28 member states (Treib, 2014). In the absence of a clearly distinguishable European public sphere (Dacheux 2003; De Wilde, Michailidou & Trenz, 2014), getting citizens to discuss European issues, rather than domestic ones, often appears a particularly delicate task. Tendencies of fragmentation became especially vivid in the run-up to the 2014 elections, where many anti-European voices made themselves heard. While Eurosceptic parties won seats in the Parliament in 23 out of the 28 member states, however, it has to be distinguished between “hard and soft Euroscepticism” (Treib, 2014: 1543): The former rejects the whole idea of the European Union in principle, the latter accept the idea of the EU project but oppose specific policies of the EU. Eurosceptic parties are found within the whole political spectrum–from the radical left and centrist to moderate right and radical right (Treib, 2014).

The use of social media and Twitter in particular has been an important asset during the European elections for all candidates, but especially for Eurosceptic parties. A study of over 1.2 million tweets sent in English, French, and German during the EU elections 2014 suggests that national parties “with an explicitly anti-EU or anti-Euro platform generated the most attention” (Pew Research Center, 2014). When looking at the campaigning strategies of selected candidates from Eurosceptic parties a great networking effort can be observed: Marine Le Pen from the French Front National for example tries to restrict her Twitter followers to party members and supportive voices (Thimm et al., 2016). Also, the German←9 | 10→ Eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) tries a more informative than dialogical way of tweeting (ibid.). Overall, current Twitter research gives the impression of highly diverse patterns of individual tweeting strategies among EU candidates, but for the prospective representatives of an institution often portrayed in European media as being distant from domestic voters, Twitter and other social media can at least be used to give the image (rightly or wrongly) of a tool cutting across barriers and favouring direct communication with voters. However, politicians need to be aware of the dangers of using the participatory features of Twitter in a purely cosmetic way. Already the renewal of democracy through participatory procedures was a promise most often not fulfilled. They must be careful not to create additional democratic disenchantment with social networks.

This volume: Twitter as a political practice

This volume is a collection of papers which examine the way Twitter was used by candidates from different countries, during the 2014 European Parliamentary Election campaign. All of the contributors took part in an international research project to compare Twitter use during these elections in five different countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. All of the tweets sent by or to all of the candidates in these countries were collected during a month around the election date, as well as others which mentioned the candidates themselves, or used hashtags associated with the elections. On the basis of the 50 million tweets collected, processed and divided into national corpora, the different teams worked to establish the specificities of Twitter usage between candidates, parties and countries, looking at a whole range of aspects and of research questions. The current volume brings together the first set of results from the project.

Biographical notes

Alex Frame (Volume editor) Arnaud Mercier (Volume editor) Gilles Brachotte (Volume editor) Caja Thimm (Volume editor)

Alex Frame is Associate Professor in Communication Science at the University of Burgundy (Dijon) where he works within the TIL research group (EA4182). Arnaud Mercier is Professor of Communication Science and the Director of the French Press Institute (IFP, Paris). Gilles Brachotte is Associate Professor in Communication Science at the University of Burgundy (Dijon) and member of the CIMEOS-3S research group (EA4177). Caja Thimm is Professor of Media Studies and Intermediality at the University of Bonn.

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