Sebastian Adrian Popa, Zoltán Fazekas, Daniela Braun, Melanie-Marita Leidecker-Sandmann
Informing the Public: How Party Communication Builds Opportunity Structures

Political Communication, 2020: 37, Heft 3, S. 329-349
ISSN: 1058-4609 (print), 1091-7675 (online)

We argue that the attention parties devote to a topic contributes to expanding the opportunity structure to acquire information that party supporters have. We evaluate this proposition in a comparative manner by focusing on an elite-driven new topic, namely the Spitzenkandidaten system in European Parliament elections. We link candidate recognition survey data from 28 countries with over 175 party electoral programs, press releases, and Twitter communication before the 2014 European Parliament elections. Our results show that especially what parties emphasize or decide to talk about on Twitter contributes to what their supporters will know. As proposed, this is an indirect effect through a general contribution to the information environment in election campaigns. However, party communication portfolios should not discount traditional tools given that these can also contribute to the opportunity structures available to party supporters.