Friend or Foe?: Digital Technologies and the Changing Nature of Party Membership

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As membership levels decline, parties are developing new forms of linkage with supporters, many of which rely on internet technologies. To date, the discussion of these new modes of affiliation has been largely theoretical in nature, with little, if any, systematic empirical analysis undertaken on their appeal and impact on formal membership. This article seeks to fill this gap by examining the presence of three new types of digital affiliation - audience, friends and digital activists – among the French electorate using original survey data from the 2012 Presidential election. Our findings are important in showing that while the new methods of affiliation are increasing parties’ reach into society, they are not necessarily widening parties’ socio-economic support base. Furthermore digital activism is mostly a supplementary channel for members’ input although there are a smaller group of people engaging in these activities that avoid formal membership ties. Such results suggest that digital methods of affiliation might offer an important new resource to parties during campaigns.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number1
Early online date25 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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