Voters’ information behaviour when using political actors’ web sites during the 2011 Scottish Parliament election campaign.
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BAXTER, G., MARCELLA, R., CHAPMAN, D. and FRASER, A., 2013. Voters’ information behaviour when using political actors’ web sites during the 2011 Scottish Parliament election campaign. Aslib Proceedings, 65 (5), pp. 515-533.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to report the results of a study of voters' online behaviour conducted during the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election campaign. Design/methodology/approach – The study used an interactive, electronically-assisted interview method, where 64 citizens were observed and questioned while they searched for, browsed and used information on the web sites and social media sites of political parties and candidates standing for election to the Scottish Parliament. Findings – While online campaign sites were generally regarded as serving a useful purpose, as being easy to use and understand, relatively interesting and likely to be visited again, there was very little evidence in this study to indicate that they had any significant impact on voting behaviour during the 2011 Scottish campaign. Rather, the participants' comments suggest that more traditional information sources, particularly print and broadcast media, coupled with long-established campaign techniques, such as leaflet deliveries and door knocking, continue to be more influential in determining Scottish voters' democratic choices. Research limitations/implications – The paper presents results obtained from a sample of 64 citizens of North-east Scotland. As such, the authors would lay no claims to the results of the study being applicable outwith the Scottish setting. Practical implications – The findings have implications for those candidates successfully elected to the Scottish Parliament, who may have to significantly modify their information practices on entering parliament. The study also has implications for the broader, international, political and information research communities, as it has added to a rather sparse body of qualitative work on voters' online election information needs. The voter-centred methodological approach used in the study has the potential to be used or adopted more widely, to aid our understanding of the use and impact of online campaign tools. 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. Internationally, most studies of users of online campaign resources have been largely quantitative in nature. The qualitative research discussed in this paper is, therefore, particularly timely and potentially significant.