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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Beyond the Base? Political Parties, Citizen Activists, and Digital Media Use in the 2009 German Federal Election Campaign


When digital media emerged in the early 1990s, many were hopeful that political parties would utilize the technology to mobilize disengaged voters. Instead, parties established websites that appealed to supporters. Did this change with the introduction of interactive media like social networking sites (SNS) in the Web 2.0 era? Using survey data from the 2009 German Longitudinal Election Study (GLES), we find that parties are able to reach beyond their base by disseminating campaign information through social networking sites. Unlike earlier studies, which found that parties tended to mobilize male party members who were older, wealthier, and more educated, we find that younger party members and non-members who strongly identify with political parties are more likely to see campaign information through social networking sites, regardless of their income, education, or gender. Moreover, party members are more likely than non-members to share campaign information on social media sites. Additional findings and implications are discussed.

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