Acta Politica

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 145–173 | Cite as

Political parties and social media campaigning

A qualitative comparative analysis of parties’ professional Facebook and Twitter use in the 2010 and 2012 Dutch elections
  • Niels SpieringsEmail author
  • Kristof Jacobs
Original Article


Do new media level the playing field during election campaigns (‘equalization’) or do they mirror existing inequalities between parties (normalization)? Empirical studies come to contradictory findings. Part of the answer is in the timing: first social media level the playing field, afterwards bigger parties see the benefit and invest in it. Yet, this raises a new question: given that social media are cheap and easy to use, how can investing in them tip the balance? Based on a critical assessment of the literature and in-depth interviews, we advance a new theoretical framework to address both contradictions: the motivation-resource-based diffusion model. We link this model to the broader party and campaigning literature and formulate expectations, in terms of party size and ideology, about which parties use social media professionally. Afterwards, we conduct a crisp-set qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) of the Dutch parties (2010 and 2012 elections) to assess these expectations. We find that populism, postmaterialism, and party size matter but in different ways in the different phases of diffusion.


Election campaigns Social media Populism Political parties Postmaterialism 



We would like to express our gratitude to the three anonymous reviewers whose useful feedback significantly strengthened the final version of this article. In addition, we are thankful to the interviewees for their time and insights and Dr. Liesbeth Hermans for her thorough and critical feedback on an earlier version of this work. All remaining flaws are ours.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, RSCRRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.IMRRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands

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