Towards hypermedia campaigning? Perceptions of new media's importance for campaigning by party strategists in comparative perspective

This paper analyses strategic thinking around election campaign communication in a rapidly evolving media environment, characterized by the rise of digital communication channels and online social networks as new tools of political campaigning. Using an expert survey with campaign managers of 68 political parties within 12 European nations, representing both old and new EU member states, the study investigates the perceived importance of different types of communication platforms in meeting campaign objectives, especially with regard to differences between new and direct modes of campaigning in comparison to traditional campaign channels. The attributed significance to these various channels is then analysed against a range of variables on macro (country) level as well as meso (party) level. The results suggest that while some differences can be observed in regard to the perceptions of particular types of social media between individual strategists working for parties as well as between strategists working in new and old EU member states (e.g. Facebook is seen as more important in younger democracies), overall we can see a relatively high level of homogeneity in the perceived importance of campaign communication in the sample. The data point to the embedding of new communication platforms within election campaign strategies across most nations and parties; this indicates that the move towards ‘hypermedia' campaign style, integrating both old and new campaign tools and communication platforms, is now becoming a standard feature of professional campaigning strategy in Europe.