In today’s digital age, it is unimaginable for political parties to operate without an online presence. The advent of the internet and online communication tools (i.e. social media, forums, etc.) has pushed parties to develop their virtual presence and provided new ways for them to communicate with citizens. Yet, the role of online participation tools (OPTs) for parties extends beyond mere access to a broader voter base. Parties actively use OPTs to expand membership and increase involvement among members, thereby strengthening communication and deliberation between its core voters.
However, OPTs may also come with their own unintended consequences. For example, OPTs may not increase participation equally for all types of party members. If OPTs increase engagement mainly among male party members, how would parties compensate for the lack of female voices in the online space? More importantly, how can parties design OPTs such that it increases engagement equally across all demographic types of party members, from males to females, from younger members to older members, and from ethnic minority members to other underrepresented groups? In this week’s TL;DR, we lay out the most important findings from Thuermer’s (2019) case study on the real-life effects of OPTs among German Green Party members.
In 2018, motivated with the goal of increasing online engagement among its party members, the Green Party of Germany established two online participation tools (OPTs).
- Antragsgrün: an online platform where members can publish, comment on, support and submit proposals for assemblies, introduced in 2014, received major updates in 2018.
- Mitgliederbegehren: a petition system through which members can collectively make a demand from the executive board, introduced in 2018.
Thuermer sent out two surveys on a sample of roughly 4200 members of the Green Party. The two surveys were spaced out roughly 8 months apart between 2017 and 2018. Party members were asked about their general views of political participation and usage of the two OPTs before and after their introduction.