International Journal of Internet Science

A peer reviewed open access journal for empirical findings, methodology, and theory of social and behavioral science concerning the Internet and its implications for individuals, social groups, organizations, and society.

Volume 9, Issue 1 (2014)

Analyzing the Political Communication Patterns of Voting Advice Application Users
Katharina Hanel & Martin Schultze
Heinrich-Heine-University of Düsseldorf, Germany

Abstract: Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) are Internet tools and a form of receptive political online communication that allow for a comparison of the individual’s position on policy issues with those of parties and candidates running for election. Recently, these tools have experienced an increasing demand in Europe. However, a systematic approach to link the research on VAAs with research on political communication is missing. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to link these two research areas and to describe the users of the German VAA “Wahl-O-Mat” in more detail concerning their political communication patterns. Based on findings on the impact of the Internet for political communication and results from international VAA research hypotheses about the political communication habits of VAA users are formulated and tested by creating a political communication typology with a Latent Class Analysis (LCA). With this research strategy, we identify five classes with distinct political communication patterns among the online electorate by drawing on an online sample for the 2009 German Federal Election. The results show that even in the context of elections about half of the online population communicates only to a small extent about politics. Furthermore, using the Wahl-O-Mat is not an exclusive feature of an elite part of the Internet community, but the probability of using the Wahl-O-Mat increases with the bandwidth of political communication. Our analyses indicate that the tool reaches a heterogeneous share of people with regard to political communication, socio-demographic characteristics and political interest and overcomes patterns of political communication.

Keywords: Voting Advice Applications, online communication, Wahl-O-Mat, 2009 German Federal Election, Latent Class Analysis, political communication typologies

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