Mapping Web Interactivity: A Comparative Study of Congressional Campaign Websites

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International Journal of E-Politics

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This paper explores the use of interactive communication and dialogic relationship building strategies on political campaign Web sites. In contrast to presidential races that often feature substantially more sophisticated campaign Web sites, congressional candidates’ ability and willingness to use the Web as an electioneering tool has varied greatly. The present research sought to address two broad research questions: 1) how candidates from the same electoral districts used their Web sites during the 2006 and 2010 congressional elections; and 2) to what extent could several candidate and district level variables explain the differences in Web utilization. A typology was proposed to examine the first question, while content analysis was performed to collect empirical data that addressed the second question. Results indicate that while the use of interactive Web strategies may be concentrated among candidates with certain characteristics in 2006, the adoption of social media in political campaigns has trickled down from the presidential level, and that interactive tools have become a norm in the 2010 congressional election, with virtually no observable differences emerging among candidates. Theoretical and practical implication for online political public relations is discussed.


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