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Online and Undecided: Voters and the Internet in the Contemporary Norwegian Election Campaign

Authors


* Rune Karlsen, Research Fellow, Institute for Social Research, PO Box 3233, Elisenberg, 0208 Oslo, Norway. E-mail: rka@socialresearch.no

Abstract

This article addresses the Internet as a campaign communication channel, and the approach is to explore voters' use of the Internet for electoral information in the contemporary Norwegian campaign. Theoretically it is argued for a distinction between party-controlled and uncontrolled online communication channels, and this distinction proves important as patterns of use differ between these two types of the new media. Based on digital inequalities and assertions of web campaigning being ‘preaching to the converted’, the article explores the factors that contribute to the use of the Internet for electoral information, and to what extent online voters are available on the electoral market. The article finds that the Internet was an important information source for a relatively small, but nonetheless substantial, part of the electorate. However, most other channels of communication were considered more important. Digital inequalities related to socioeconomic status and gender are mostly about following the campaign on online newspapers (uncontrolled), not acquiring information from party websites (controlled). Moreover, while the youngest, most inexperienced voters visited party websites to a greater extent than their older cohorts, they did not follow the campaign on online newspapers to a greater extent. Furthermore, online voters are not ‘converted’ to a party, but are available on the electoral market.

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