Thierry Giasson, a political science professor at Université Laval, directed the first France-Québec comparative study to systematically analyze the use of participatory web technologies in the context of electoral strategies.
Social media had a large impact on confirmed users of these platforms.
The study webinpolitics.com, carried out in collaboration with researchers from Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Université de Lorraine, Université de Lille and Université Paris-Est, focused on the use of Facebook, YouTube, Dailymotion and Twitter by political parties during the Québec general and French presidential elections of 2012.
The study revealed significant differences between France and Québec. For example, the UMP, the party in power in France at the time and the party of outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy, appeared far more disposed to mobilize Internet users than the Québec Liberal Party.
The researchers noted that the use of social media was of benefit to offline campaigns, providing additional tools for communication and mobilization. They also observed that social media had a large impact on confirmed users of these platforms, such as political journalists and highly-engaged activists, but that the vast majority of voters remained largely unexposed to this online activity.
The main impact of the research lies in the impressive quantity of data obtained. In addition to collecting everything that the political parties posted on these social media platforms using a new web tool called Aspira, the researchers interviewed 48 political strategists, surveyed 1,600 Internet users who took part in online campaigns, and held a number of focus groups. The innovative data reveal both the strategies of the different parties and the perceptions Internet users have of these strategies. The findings will lead to a great deal of reflection and scientific output, including an article in an upcoming special issue of Politique et Sociétés.