European political trends viewed through patterns of Web linking

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Abstract

This study explored the feasibility of using Web hyperlink data to study European political Web sites. Ninety-six European Union (EU) political parties belonging to a wide range of ideological, historical, and linguistic backgrounds were included in the study. Various types of data on Web links to party Web sites were collected. The Web colink data were visualized using multidimensional scaling (MDS), while the inlink data were analyzed with a 2-way analysis of variance test. The results showed that Web hyperlink data did reflect some political patterns in the EU. The MDS maps showed clusters of political parties along ideological, historical, linguistic, and social lines. Statistical analysis based on inlink counts further confirmed that there was a significant difference along the line of the political history of a country, such that left-wing parties in the former communist countries received considerably fewer inlinks to their Web sites than left-wing parties in countries without a history of communism did. The study demonstrated the possibility of using Web hyperlink data to gain insights into political situations in the EU. This suggests the richness of Web hyperlink data and its potential in studying social-political phenomena.

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