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On-line and on message? Candidate websites in the 2001 General Election



The 2001 General Election generated considerable interest and also much criticism of politicians’ use of the Internet. Via content analysis, search engines and database material, this article examines candidates’ and local constituency parties’ on-line activity in three areas: first, the extent of Internet use by candidates and local parties—who and how many candidates had live websites for the election?; second, the pattern of on-line activity at the local level—where were parties/candidates on-line?; and third, what were candidates doing on-line—did candidates experiment with interactivity, or use the new media as another top-down communication tool?

The survey indicates that use of the Internet was patchy and websites often acted as little more than static on-line leaflets. Moreover, the overall impact of the Internet on electoral outcomes was minimal and use of the technology by itself is unlikely to herald the coming of e-democracy. However, we also argue that some of the criticism levelled at parties is misplaced and that there are good reasons why parties have so far behaved cautiously.