This paper reports the results of a study which investigated the use of social media by political parties and candidates in Scotland as part of their campaign for election to the Scottish Parliament in 2011, and which compared this to the situation encountered during the 2010 UK General Election campaign. During the five-week period preceding the election date of May 5, 2011, the content of 203 Facebook pages, 152 Twitter accounts, and 66 blogs was analysed in order to identify the ways in which political actors provided information to, and interacted with, potential voters. The study found that social media, as in 2010, were used primarily for the one-way flow of information to the electorate. There was little direct, two-way engagement, and a general reluctance to respond to difficult policy questions or critical comments posted by the public. The information provided also frequently lacked any meaningful policy comment. Although the average number of friends and followers of politicians’ social media sites had risen since 2010, there was evidence to suggest that the general public was less interested in engaging with these sites, by posting comments or entering into any online debates. The paper questions the assertion of the victorious party, the Scottish National Party, that the 2011 Scottish election was the “first European election where online has swayed the vote,” and concludes by considering what implications these patterns of information provision and communication might have for those candidates who were successfully elected to the Scottish Parliament.
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