You are here

Elections

Understanding the Swinging Voter

Next up at CMPM2014 is Edwina Throsby, whose focus is on swinging voters. These are important figures in Australian politics, and seen as determining party policies and deciding elections; the fact that Australia has compulsory voting also makes their position very special in an international context.

There are plenty of assumptions about who these swinging voters are, and how they might be targetted by political campaigning – and indeed most campaigns are squarely focussed on this group. But such targetting has become increasingly difficult in recent years: while campaigners continue to believe that they can be targetted as a bloc, they also acknowledge that to define and target this cohort is now very difficult.

Such swinging voters are sometimes seen as unprincipled, apolitical and disengaged, or at best as calculating or capricious; conversely, they are also acknowledged as the group which ends up deciding who will govern the country, and who are therefore important and critical. Political operatives in Australia still largely hold negative views, but also acknowledge the substantial diversity within this group.

Political Branding in Labor's 2007 and 2010 Campaigns

Next up at CMPM2014 is Lorann Downer, whose focus is on brand strategies of the Australian Labor Party in the 2007 and 2010 elections. Political branding is a consciously chosen strategy to identify and differentiate parties and instil them with functional and emotional values, and this is expressed in part in the brand architecture

Brand architecture determines the hierarchy of brands from the same producer; it determines how brand elements are used; transfers equity between brands and offerings; and creates a "house of brands" or alternatively a "branded house". In Australia, the ALP has a federal structure and operates as a branded house, repeating certain logos and other elements.

An Introduction to Political Branding

The second speaker at CMPM2014 is Andrew Hughes, whose focus is on political branding strategies. Branding is a large area within marketing exchange, of course, and aims to influence the cognition, affection, and behaviour of consumers.

Key elements in this are brand preference, brand value, brand positioning, and brand architecture, and these all have their expressions in political branding: elections measure brand preferences, voters perceptions of which parties are on the left or the right reflect brand positioning, and the perceived relations between individual leaders, state and federal parties reflect the brand architecture of political parties.

The political market isn't all that different from other markets, then: how political consumers respond to brands, and how they engage with them, is not all that different – people might have turned off voting, but not politics and political questions as such. They want to engage with parties on an equal level, and this has also led to the success of new political brands (from Kevin07 to Palmer United) which seemed to promise a new style of engagement.

Trends in the Transformation of Electoral Processes

I'm spending the next couple of days in Sydney at the Australia-New Zealand Workshop on Campaign Management and Political Marketing, where I'm presenting a paper on the use of Twitter during the 2013 Australian federal election tomorrow. But we start today with an introduction by John Keane, who is reflecting on the history of elections during the post-war period.

He suggests that there are a number of big trends in this period. First, the electoral revolution: a huge increase in the number of countries which practice elections. Second, even despotic regimes use elections to legitimise themselves. Third, elections have been indigenised: the electoral process is being adjusted to take into account local traditions, from feeding the poor to driving away evil spirits.

Mapping the Twittersphere for the EU Election

The final speaker in the ASMC14 session is Axel Maireder, whose focus is on the structure of the Twittersphere surrounding the recent European Union election. His approach is to examine the follower networks of participants in relevant discussions, and to explore which factors explain their structural patterns – such as shared national and language identity, political ideology, or other factors.

The study captured all tweets containing keywords such as European Parliament, European Election, and relevant hashtags (in the various European languages), and gathered tweets from some 440,000 users in total. Filtering these to users with at least two tweets and at least 250 followers resulted in some 11,000 core users who were retained for the network analysis.

Online Media in the Italian Presidential Election

The second speaker in this ASMC14 session is Edoardo Novelli, whose interest is in the online activities around the recent election of the Italian President. While the President was elected by members of parliament, a great deal of alternative direct democracy activities took place online, driven especially by the Cinque Stelle movement of Beppe Grillo.

Edoardo conducted an analysis of social as well as mainstream media activities around the election, gathering data from newspapers and television, Internet and social media. During the election, the Net was used by various actors for official and unofficial forms of communication. This caused a change in the traditional flows of information and diffusion across a hybrid news system, impacted on traditional political communication practices, and allowed for the emergence of grassroots voices.

Largely, the Net has been used by parties and politicians for official and political communications. Cinque Stelle ran an online poll of its members as an alternative election to that of the President; important political meetings were broadcast live, and thereby turned into performances; Twitter was used very widely to convene demonstrations; social media were used to comment on events during the election process; political leaders were taking directly to social media to bypass conventional communication channels; party Websites and politican blogs also played a role.

Social Media and Scandinavian Politics

The next speaker in our ASMC14 panel is Anders Larsson, whose interest is in the professionalisation of politics – especially in the context of the increasing use of social media and other ICTs. Campaigns now regularly use social media for political marketing, and Anders's study focusses on the use of Facebook for such purposes – using Netvizz, he gathered activity around the Facebook pages of Swedish and Norwegian parties, party leaders, and other politicians.

Social Media and Australian Politics

The first session at ASMC14 is one I'm in, and focusses on social media and politics – and my QUT colleague Tim Highfield is the first speaker. His interest is in how diverse social media platforms have been integrated into election campaigns and related aspects. This involves a range of new and established actors, and a range of platforms which are used for various purposes from campaigning, activism, and backchannel discussions for televised events, through to being a third space for public discussion and engagement with established voices including journalists and politicians.

In Australia, a number of established Twitter hashtags exist for various purposes – including #auspol for explicitly political debate, and #qanda as a backchannel for a well-known political talkshow, as well as #[state]votes hashtags for specific state and federal elections. But there is plenty more political discussion, especially during election campaigns, outside of such explicit spaces. This tends to spike in volume on and around election day, for a range of reasons, and on that day especially around the time that first results of the vote begin to emerge.

Expanding the Twitter Universe through Link Analysis

The final speakers in this Digital Methods panel are Jürgen Grimm and Christiane Grill. They're interested in moving beyond the analysis of individual tweets to the aggregation of Twitter data which can be used reliably in media research. This requires the use of transparent and clear search or tracking strategies, and a further manual reduction of the data to weed out irrelevant material; further, the intertextual connections of tweets need to be identified and examined, both between each other and with external texts (e.g. from mass media).

The idea in this is to move from an atomistic Twitter universe, based on individual tweets, to a conversational and/or intermedial Twitter universe (variously recognising tweet relationships through @mentions and retweets, or through links and other pointers to external media texts). In the context of the Salzburg state election in Austria, for example, the former means focussing on conversations rather than individual tweets; the latter means identifying all links being shared by Twitter users and generating a hybrid network including tweets and other resources.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Elections