Rachel K. Gibson, Andrea Römmele, Stephen J. Ward
German Parties and Internet Campaigning in the 2002 Federal Election

German Politics, 2003: 12, Heft 1, S. 79-108

This paper examines German national parties’ use of the Internet in the 2002 Federal election. The main goals of the paper are to determine what the parties were doing in their online campaigns and how far their use of the Internet can be understood in terms of two party specific variables – organisational size and primary goal. These questions are of significance given the relative limited study of parties use of the net in Germany in the comparative literature on this topic. Also, research on parties’ use of the web across countries has suggested that while context does produce differences in approach, party specific factors also play a major role in determining online strategy. This study attempts to investigate these questions systematically by examining nine German parties’ use of the Internet (specifically websites e-mail, and intra-nets) using questionnaire data from national party personnel and content analysis of web pages. Our findings show that while the divide between major and minor parties can be seen quite clearly in the German context in terms of website quality and visibility, evidence to support the impact of party outlook in shaping parties online strategy can also be found. The study also reveals that major parties are now beginning to take the Internet very seriously as a communication tool, particularly in terms of election campaigning.