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Friend or Follower?: The meaning of party membership in the Digital Age

Abstract : Parties have made increasing use of the new digital communication technology to interact with their voters and also their members and supporters. While the former external relationship has received extensive attention, internal organizational uses are less well documented. This paper seeks to fill this gap by examining the impact of the internet and particularly newer social media technologies on the nature of membership and affiliation among French parties. Using the conceptual framework of Scarrow (2014) we examine and expand on the two main categories of membership she identifies as emerging in the digital age - followers and cyber-members. Our core purpose is three-fold. First we aim to try to develop measures of these new categories of affiliation and provide a sense of how widely practiced they are? Second we want to know who these individuals are in terms of their socio-demographic and activist profile. Finally we want to explore their implications for party organizations and whether they are ultimately weakening or strengthening them? Perhaps these new forms widen party support in the electorate by drawing in those that might otherwise not have become involved? In addition they may also help to deepen levels of involvement in the party among activists? Alternatively they may simply create a new layer of 'thin' ties and an easier but less committed source of support. We examine these questions using a range of data sources. Specifically we use two surveys - the 2012 French National Election Study and an online survey ( conducted by the author during the 2012 election of online party activists. Through the combination of these sources we build a picture of how French parties are integrating internet tools into their organizational dynamics, and draw more general conclusions about the future of party membership in the digital age.
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Contributor : Fabienne Greffet <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 11:30:54 AM
Last modification on : Friday, July 3, 2020 - 4:58:26 PM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00981438, version 1



Rachel Gibson, Fabienne Greffet, Marta Cantijoch. Friend or Follower?: The meaning of party membership in the Digital Age. ECPR Joint Sessions 2014, workshop "The Contemporary Meanings of Party Membership", Apr 2014, Salamanca, Spain. ⟨halshs-00981438⟩



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