The use of the internet by political parties and candidates in Scotland during the 2010 UK general election campaign.
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Purpose – This paper seeks to report the results of a study, which investigated the use of the internet by political parties and individual candidates in Scotland as part of their campaign for election to the UK Parliament in 2010. Design/methodology/approach – Three methodologies were used in gathering data: the content of the web sites of 18 parties and 12 candidates was analysed in order to identify the ways in which participation by the Scottish electorate was encouraged via the provision of information and of opportunities for interaction, debate and feedback; the extent to which parties and candidates adopted and used social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, during the campaign was investigated and measured; and using e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, a series of enquiries based around topical campaign and policy issues was directed at parties and candidates to measure the speed and extent of response, as well as any efforts made towards the creation of an ongoing relationship with potential voters. Findings – Party and candidate web sites were being used extensively for information provision, income generation and the recruitment of members and volunteers. However, Scottish political actors were reluctant to encourage online contact and debate, and were unwilling to answer contentious policy questions online. Social media applications were adopted by a significant number of parties and candidates, but were used primarily for the one-way flow of information to known associates and party activists. Originality/value – This study forms part of an ongoing series of investigations by the authors, which has examined the use of the internet by political parties and candidates during parliamentary election campaigns in Scotland. These are the only such studies which have looked specifically at the Scottish political arena.