Local Politics Online

Local (?) Politics Online

"Is Politics Local ... and Online? Federal Riding Association Websites in Canada" is an academic article written by our Research Analyst Laura Anthony and Research Manager Jane Hilderman. It was originally presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association at Brock University on May 29, 2014. 


Political parties have been online for more than a decade—giving rise to a body of research that explores the use of websites by national political parties as important communication tools between parties and citizens. Studies have been limited in two significant ways: first, the focus has centred on national party websites; second, scholarly attention most often probes websites during elections. This has left a gap in our understanding: do riding associations, the local components of parties, also employ websites? And if so, to what purpose?

edainfographic_sliderTo address these questions, we provide the first baseline measure of all riding associations' websites among Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green and Bloc Québécois parties. By employing a content analysis modeled on Norris' work (2003), we illuminate riding associations' use of websites to provide information (e.g. executive members, party platform), and to encourage citizens' political engagement outside of electoral periods (e.g. becoming a party member, attending riding association meetings). To address these questions, we provide the first baseline measure of all riding associations' websites among Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green and Bloc Québécois parties. By employing a content analysis modeled on Norris' work (2003), we illuminate riding associations' use of websites to provide information (e.g. executive members, party platform), and to encourage citizens' political engagement outside of electoral periods (e.g. becoming a party member, attending riding association meetings). 

Though a majority of riding associations have a locatable website, over 50 percent rely on the national party domain as a host and include little to no local content. Overall, riding websites are weak –equally so for both information and engagement– fulfilling less than half the 18 indicators we coded for. These findings support Small's (2012) observation that Canadian parties have not embraced the full potential of the internet, even at the local level. Intra-party disparities among websites also share elements of Carty's (2002) franchisee model signalling differences in capacity and independence of local associations.

Read the full article


Norris, Pippa. (2003). “Preaching to the converted? Pluralism, participation and party websites. ”Party Politics 9, 1:21-45.

Small, Tamara A. (2008). “Equal Access, Unequal Success – Major and Minor Canadian Parties on the Net.” Party Politics, 14 (1), 51-70. 

Carty, R.K. (2002). “The Politics of Tecumseh Corners: Canadian Political Parties as Franchise Organizations.” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 35 (4), 723-745.

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