Who is leading the campaign charts? Comparing individual popularity on old and new media
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences. Political Sciences
Information, communication and society. - London
, p. 1-18
University of Antwerp
Attention in the mass media is seen as crucial for electoral success. However, most ordinary candidates hardly get any attention in the news. With social media outlets becoming ever more popular, the question is whether the overall asymmetry in attention for candidates still holds today. Do candidates who dominate the traditional media during the campaign also dominate the social media? Or can candidates make up for a lack of mass media coverage by attracting attention on these new media platforms? This paper aims to answer these questions by pairing Twitter activity and Twitter popularity with newspaper attention for a large number of individual candidates in the 2014 Belgian election campaign. We expand the normalization versus equalization debate by not only looking at how much a new medium is used, but also at its success in terms of popularity and audience reach. Our findings show that the two platforms are indeed related, mainly because a small political elite dominates both old and new media. Twitter popularity and Twitter activity (albeit to a lesser extent) are higher among powerful politicians. We elaborate on why these findings are so much in line with the normalization hypothesis.