Triumph of the underdogs? Comparing Twitter use by political actors during two Norwegian election campaigns
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Social media are often discussed in terms of online novelties. However, especially within the broader field of political communication, the uses of such services, as Twitter, at the hands of political actors such as politicians and the parties to which they belong, have become something of a fixture of research in recent years. Although the study of political Twitter use has provided a series of insightful case studies, often focused on one single election or country, this article presents a comparative study looking at Twitter use at the hands of political actors during two Norwegian elections, 2011 and 2013. We are interested in what overarching tendencies can be discerned from these uses—specifically, if differing usages can be found between the two elections, suggesting developments pertaining to the normalization and equalization hypotheses respectively. This is examined by focusing on two main analytical areas: The level and type of activity undertaken by those up for election, and the repercussions that this activity appears to have in terms of popularity on the studied platform. In short, the results suggest that although Twitter largely remains an “elite” medium in the Norwegian context, smaller political and other actors are making use of the platform at hand to higher degrees than their more well-known peers. Tendencies of both hypotheses are traced in the data, and although the findings could signal an opening for “outsiders” in this regard, the sheer amount of traffic driving the tweets sent by high-end politicians suggest otherwise.