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Issue Competition in the 2017 German Federal Election Campaign: How did Right-Wing Populist Politicians of the AfD use Social Media to Navigate the Hybrid Media System?
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies, JMK.
2018 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

A body of research has established the political relevance of Social Media (SM) platforms for populist parties, claiming that populist politicians utilize a ‘bypassing-strategy’. However, the rather reluctant employment of Facebook and Twitter by German citizens other than, for example, media professionals and politicians, raises questions of the utilization intention for public actors. Even though multiple scholars already indicated the necessity of research on the ‘embeddedness of digital tools’ in journalists’ routines (Jungherr, 2016: 374) such studies remain scarce. Therefore this study aims to shed light on how power is exercised by political actors through the use of SM within Chadwick’s (2017) hybrid media system. In order to do so it firstly examines the existence of references to the Twitter and Facebook pages of politicians of the German right-wing populist party AfD within the coverage of four German newspapers about the party during the final phase of the 2017 General Federal Election campaign. Secondly, by employing issue competition theory, issues and topics that three AfD politicians communicated about on their SM pages are compared with those that the party has been covered in relation to in newspaper articles. The findings of the quantitative content analysis on the newspaper articles showed only few cases in which AfD politicians’ SM statements were quoted. In regard to issue competition theory, the quantitative mapping of issues and topics in newspaper coverage about the AfD as well its politicians’ SM statements however, demonstrate prevailing similarities between the issues and topics that dominated the newspaper coverage about the party as well as its politicians SM pages. A thematic analysis on the latter found three themes that suggest a possible explanation for the few cases in which newspaper articles referenced SM statements: All three politicians used SM differently to promote, circulate and comment on issues and topics which influenced whether statements originated from the platform or from other contexts, such as rally events, tv debates, media article etc. These different types of content distributed and published on the politicians’ SM pages could be a possible explanation for the limited instances in which SM statements were quoted by newspaper articles. These findings suggest that the AfD did indeed pursued a bypassing strategy and employed SM platforms to directly communicate with its supporters. However, future studies should continue research on the embeddedness of SM statements in contexts other than campaigning times. Furthermore insights from qualitative interviews with politicians about their utilization strategies and journalists regarding their possible hesitance to quote politicians’ SM Statements, that may be grounded in professional standards, are necessary in order to obtain a more complete assessment of the role of SM for political actors in navigating the hybrid media system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. , p. 91
Keywords [en]
Hybrid Media System, Issue Competition Theory, Populism, Political Communication, Facebook, Twitter, German Federal Election 2017
National Category
Media and Communications
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-157032OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-157032DiVA, id: diva2:1214408
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-07-04 Created: 2018-06-06 Last updated: 2018-07-04Bibliographically approved

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