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    Blog#3 Digital campaigning: scope, practice and potential described more by opposition parties across Europe

    Blog by Rémi Almodt, doctoral researcher DIGIEFFECT Project, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj- Napoca, Romania

    Political parties and candidates increasingly rely on digital communication for their (electoral) campaigns, such as the one for the European Parliament elections to be held between the 6-9 th of June 2024. This can happen via social media or websites and campaign platforms with increased campaigning activities by parties and their candidates. We investigate how party websites make reference to digital campaigning on their websites across Europe. We see that opposition parties are more likely to go into greater detail about digital campaigning on their websites. Parties tend to focus on the party organisation, their candidates, and campaigns but also government officials and the public. References to digital campaigning emphasise the scope, practice, and potential of such campaigns.

    Our analysis compares the top 20 most frequent terms within website articles of opposition and governing parties (Figure 1) and reveals higher overall term frequencies in opposition party articles. Even though there are slightly more opposition articles (2.962) than articles by governing parties (2.373), the magnitude of term frequencies indicate a stronger focus on digital campaigning by opposition parties than governing parties.

    We see that opposition parties invoke government, the party and campaign as political subjects, but also focus on societal subjects like the people, the public, or the country.
    Government party articles emphasise the people first, which connect to similar public actor categories like the public or the country. Political actors associated with digital campaigning are government, party, minister, and the campaign. In both cases these are paired with words indicating actions and demands.

    Figure 1 Top 20 terms by frequency used by opposition and governing parties within their website articles. Term frequencies were set between 1000-100.000. The figure was generated based on the analysis with the R package quanteda.

    Specific examples for how the public, the government, and parties integrate into digital campaigning references show a focus on scopes, practices, and potentials. For example, Danish opposition party Radical Left mentions government and authorities in reference to digital campaigning, parties, and candidates, stating that “[f]or the parties, this meant that the [COVID-19] election campaign was highly digital […]. This put a lot of pressure on the candidates, who had to wait for the authorities to announce the guidelines for physical events”. Spanish opposition People’s Party ties the digital campaign and candidates to the government as a goal, stating that “for training of candidacies, we work with the best teams […] to present professional profiles that can be part of a majority group that gives legislative support that the government of Spain needs”. They also identify specific campaign staffers for their digital campaign.

    In some cases, this also applies to governing parties, yet less frequently. In Belgium the incumbent Reformist Movement state that most campaign supporters reached were non-members, and “that this communication technique makes it possible to target a wider audience than usual”. German governing Social Democratic Party references parties and supporters as central actors around digital campaign communication, emphasising that “[t]he parties are not only directly responsible for how they themselves communicate at central level. They also have an indirect responsibility for how their members and supporters communicate. Parties must therefore not tolerate a culture of debate that promotes the spread of slander, hatred and hate speech”.

    For this analysis we created a list of party websites from the country list provided on, using the Chrome Web Scraper extension and Octoparse. We extracted 12.933 search results for the keywords digital campaign/ing from 102 party websites and compiled a final dataset of 5.335 articles published between 2000 and 2024. The average publishing year for all articles was 2020.
    You can find a more in-depth view into the findings of our analysis of party website articles about digital campaign/ing in our working paper here.