Cyber-campaigning for Congress: a cultural analysis of House candidate Web sites
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Largely inspired by the evolution of political advertising over the last several years, this dissertation examines the rapidly changing relationship between campaign communication and the Internet. More specifically, the study explores, through a cultural lens, how politics and politicians are being packaged and presented on the World Wide Web at the dawn of the 21st century. Working under the assumption that Web sites function as part of an overall political campaign strategy, this research employs a series of thirteen in-depth interviews with political Web designers and a content analysis of 145 campaign sites (as well as a comparison of those sites to 118 legislative sites) to examine the online advertising strategies of Congressional candidates, and their implications for political campaigns and public life in the United States. Based upon the theory that campaign advertising, more than any other form of political communication, encourages important dialogue and interaction between candidates and their audiences, this study predicted that the campaign sites of U.S. House candidates would be superior to the official government sites of sitting Representatives in three key areas: information, creativity, and technology. Due to the competitive nature of campaigns, it was also expected that candidates' sites would feature more partisan content and more references to political opposition. Results of the present research indicate that while campaign sites included more technology, more partisan content, and more political opposition, legislative sites were slightly more informative and creative. Additionally, it was found that the sites of Republicans and incumbent candidates generally displayed higher frequencies in each category than those of Democrats and challengers.