Paul Nulty, Yannis Theocharis, Sebastian Adrian Popa, Olivier Parnet, Kenneth Benoit
Social media and political communication in the 2014 elections to the European Parliament

Electoral Studies, 2016: 44, Heft December, S. 429–444
ISSN: 0261-3794 (print & online)

Social media play an increasingly important part in the communication strategies of political campaigns by reflecting information about the policy preferences and opinions of political actors and their public followers. In addition, the content of the messages provides rich information about the political issues and the framing of those issues during elections, such as whether contested issues concern Europe or rather extend pre-existing national debates. In this study, we survey the European landscape of social media using tweets originating from and referring to political actors during the 2014 European Parliament election campaign. We describe the language and national distribution of the messages, the relative volume of different types of communications, and the factors that determine the adoption and use of social media by the candidates. We also analyze the dynamics of the volume and content of the communications over the duration of the campaign with reference to both the EU integration dimension of the debate and the prominence of the most visible list-leading candidates. Our findings indicate that the lead candidates and their televised debate had a prominent influence on the volume and content of communications, and that the content and emotional tone of communications more reflects preferences along the EU dimension of political contestation rather than classic national issues relating to left-right differences.