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Political Institutions and Online campaigning


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Slideshow for my presentation at the 2006 Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Programme

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Political Institutions and Online campaigning

  1. 1. Political Institutions And Online Campaigning Nick Anstead Department of Politics And International Relations Royal Holloway College University of London Email: Weblog:
  2. 2. Political Institutions And Online Campaigning <ul><li>Outlining The Research Problem Background: Online elections in the US and UK. </li></ul><ul><li>Analytical Framework The new institutionalism. </li></ul><ul><li>Avenues Of Investigation Aspects of the US and UK political systems. </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Research Problem <ul><li>What’s to be explained? The massive discrepancy in the impact the Internet has had on British and American electoral politics. </li></ul><ul><li>How might this be explained? How and to what extent have the differences between existing political institutions in the two countries impacted on the adoption of the Internet by political actors. </li></ul>
  4. 4. American Online Success Stories <ul><li>Jesse Ventura Minnesota Gubernational Contest, 1998 (Greer & LaPointe, 2004). </li></ul><ul><li>John McCain GOP Presidential Nomination Contest, 2000 (Klotz, 2004). </li></ul><ul><li>Howard Dean Democratic Presidential Nomination Contest, 2004 (Dodson & Hammersley, 2003; Hickey, 2004; Trippi, 2004; Wolf, 2004). </li></ul>
  5. 5. American Online Success Stories <ul><li>John Kerry Democratic Presidential Candidate, 2004 (Dwyer et al, 2004). </li></ul><ul><li>Paul Hackett Ohio Second Congressional District Special Election, 2005 (Stein, 2005). </li></ul><ul><li>Ned Lamont? Connecticut Democratic Senatorial Nomination Contest, 2006 (Bacon, 2006). </li></ul>
  6. 6. Dean For America – Fundraising Source: FEC Data
  7. 7. Dean For America – Support Source: ABC / Washington Post Polling and (after Jan ‘04) primary results
  8. 8. Dean For America – Networks <ul><li>Created a network amongst the blogging community and was able to de-centralise core campaign activities such as fundraising. </li></ul><ul><li>Ran an “open source” campaign, where the candidate interacted directly with a network of online supporters. This allowed a dialogue on campaign policies, priorities and tactics. </li></ul><ul><li>Utilised to allow 190,000 online activists to meet offline (Dodson & Hammersley, 2003; Hickey, 2004; Trippi, 2004; Wolf, 2004). </li></ul>
  9. 9. The US: Internet Success Story <ul><li>Fund raising. </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing profile of certain candidate’s with voters and allowing them to gain political momentum. </li></ul><ul><li>Constructing online supporter networks. </li></ul><ul><li>The success of the Internet has led to a great deal of media and academic interest in the subject, and a belief that the new medium is capable of subverting the established political order. </li></ul>The Internet has proved to be influential in many aspects of American electoral politics. Most crucially, it has impacted on:
  10. 10. The UK: Little Impact <ul><li>2001 General Election “Technology in search of a real purpose” (Coleman and Hall, 2001). </li></ul><ul><li>2004 Hartlepool Byelection “Everyone we met was either drunk, flanked by an angry dog or undressed“ (Dunn, cited in Aitkenhead, 2005). </li></ul><ul><li>2005 General Election “A marginal battleground for the parties and of interest to a minority of the UK public” (Ward, 2005). </li></ul>
  11. 11. The UK: Little Impact <ul><li>Generally a sense that the Internet has not had a huge impact or lived up to the hype: “I used to look at colleagues, their heads buried in their computer screens, fingers flicking from one site to the next, and I used to worry they were substituting activity for work” (Campbell, 2006). </li></ul>
  12. 12. An Institutional Approach To Addressing The Question <ul><li>A focus on pre-existing institutional structures might be an effective tool for explaining these differences in development. </li></ul><ul><li>Despite a few national studies (for example, Newell, 2001 on Italy and Tkach-Kawasaki, 2003 on Japan), institutional approaches to explaining the disparate impacts of the Internet in different societies are a largely neglected area. </li></ul><ul><li>Allows us to go beyond the specifics of the Internet example to contribute to very broad questions about development, continuity and change. </li></ul>
  13. 13. An Institutional Approach To Addressing The Question <ul><li>The dominance of the American example in the literature on Internet electioneering. As a result, the US has come to be seen as the “model for emulation”. </li></ul><ul><li>A tendency towards technological rather than sociological determinism in much of the literature on the subject. Such an approach is deeply engrained in American and liberal political thought (Roe-Smith, 1994). </li></ul><ul><li>The links drawn between online politics and seemingly universal political phenomena, such as democratic decline and post-industrial politics (Inglehart, 1992). </li></ul>
  14. 14. An Institutional Approach To Addressing The Question <ul><li>“ Was America the right place to look?… The Internet may well always be a less important tool [in Britain] than in America” (Pack, 2001). </li></ul><ul><li>“ There is a vast store of experience built up in the last American Presidential election campaign from the Republican’s network of community activists to the remarkable use of the Internet in the Dean campaign. Let us study it and reform our structures ” (emphasis mine, Blair, 2005). </li></ul>
  15. 15. The New Institutionalism: An Analytical Framework <ul><li>Came about in the 1980s as a response to orthodox political paradigms which neglected the role of institutions in political life (March and Olsen, 1984 & 1989; Skocpol, 1985). </li></ul><ul><li>Offers a hybrid approach to political analysis, encompassing elements of old-style institutionalism, hermeneutics, behaviouralism and rational choice theory (Etherington & McDonagh, 1995). </li></ul>
  16. 16. The New Institutionalism: An Analytical Framework <ul><li>Allows for institutions to be both formal and informal, defining them as “a regularized or crystallized principle of conduct, action or behaviour that governs a crucial area of social life and that endures over time” (Gould, 1987). </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledges that relatively small changes in institutional structure can have large societal impacts (Talbot Coram, 1996). </li></ul><ul><li>Main focus of work is the relationship between the individual and the institution (Robert Clark, 1998). </li></ul>
  17. 17. Avenues Of Investigation <ul><li>The Party-Institutional Environment </li></ul><ul><li>The Organisational-Institutional Environment </li></ul><ul><li>The Legal-Institutional Environment </li></ul><ul><li>Political Culture And Narratives </li></ul>
  18. 18. The Party-Institutional Environment <ul><li>British and American parties appear to be outwardly similar institutions, but are in fact very different in their roles, internal structures and their relationship to wider society (Bogdanor, 1984). </li></ul><ul><li>British parties have rigid local branch structure and tend to be made up of people with a broadly similar ideological worldview (Peele, 1995). </li></ul><ul><li>American parties are regional and decentralised coalitions, held together by a candidate-focus (Klingemann et al, 1994). </li></ul>
  19. 19. The Party-Institutional Environment <ul><li>British politicians, once they ascend to a position of leadership, have a large pre-formed political network of support at their disposal. </li></ul><ul><li>When seeking office, their American counterparts need to construct a network of supporters from scratch at an early stage in the campaign. The Internet has proved to a be valuable tool, allowing rapid network construction in American electoral contests. </li></ul><ul><li>The incentive for American politicians to use the Internet in this way seems to be far higher. Constructing a large and effective political network is central to their hopes of winning office. </li></ul>
  20. 20. The Organisational-Institutional Environment <ul><li>The American system uses primary elections as a mechanism for the selection of candidates. Many of the most important Internet political developments happen at this time. </li></ul><ul><li>With a few exceptions, British candidates are selected in a closed process, their names being approved by the central party organisation and then selected by local branches. In this sort of politics, the opportunity to use the Internet is decreased. </li></ul>
  21. 21. The Organisational-Institutional Environment <ul><li>American politicians work with larger constituencies than their British counterparts. The President seeks a mandate from the whole population, gubernational and senatorial elections can have a constituency of 36 million people and the average congressional district contains 700,000 people. The average British Parliamentary seat has a population of 94,000 (US Census Bureau, 2006; National Office Of Statistics, 2006). </li></ul><ul><li>Britain’s political system is Parliamentary. As a result, voters do not get to vote (with a few exceptions) for positions of executive office. This creates a very different relationship between the elected and the electorate. </li></ul>
  22. 22. The Legal-Institutional Environment <ul><li>The legal-institutional environment can both enable and restrict online electoral politics. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1996, the American Federal Election Commission issued a ruling actively seeking to encourage online campaigning (Chadwick, 2006). There continues to be campaigning in the US to further de-regulate online campaigning (Faler, 2006). </li></ul><ul><li>The British Electoral Commission (2003) argued that it was “concerned that an overly restrictive regulatory response at this early stage may discourage campaigners from using online communication tools, and would not be in the best interests of the voter”. </li></ul>
  23. 23. The Legal-Institutional Environment <ul><li>American elections are more expensive. In 2004, John Kerry raised $185 million. President Bush raised $226 million (Trippi, 2004). In the 2005 General Election, both Labour and the Conservatives spent marginally less than £18 million (Electoral Commission, 2006). </li></ul><ul><li>As a result of this difference, American politicians have a far greater need to solicit donations and fund raising has a far greater prominence in US politics. </li></ul><ul><li>Since the Bi-Partisan Campaign Finance Act (1997), US fund raising has been more restricted. The Internet lends itself to this new political environment (IPDI, 2006). </li></ul>
  24. 24. Political And Cultural Narratives <ul><li>Can be seen as the “software” to the “hardware” of formal institutions (Dryzek, 1996). </li></ul><ul><li>Dean for America should not be seen as a new type of campaign, but rather as an old-type of campaign using new tools. The insurgency campaign is a dominant narrative in American history, literature and popular culture. </li></ul><ul><li>The power of these narratives is related to events. What role was played by the 2000 Presidential election, 9-11 and the Iraq War? </li></ul><ul><li>British politics lacks these powerful narratives. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Many Remaining Questions <ul><li>Are there limits on American success? Although US politicians have used the Internet very effectively, are there structures in the US system still limit it being harnessed to a greater degree i.e. the order of Presidential primaries. </li></ul><ul><li>What about alternative electoral structures in the UK? Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the GLA have very different structures and rules to elections for Westminster. Has this had an impact on the use of the Internet? </li></ul>
  26. 26. Many Remaining Questions <ul><li>Is something changing in the UK? The Conservative Party have announced they are going to use a primary to select their next candidate for London Mayor. Will this have an impact on the way the Internet is used (Bennett, 2006). Also, the British blogosphere is now rising to prominence (Temko, 2006). </li></ul>