Political Fiction: Political E-Mails During the 2014 U.S. Midterm Election

Bryan McLaughlin, Bailey A. Thompson, Amber Krause

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study draws attention to a largely overlooked, but crucial, facet of modern politics—the political e-mail. A mixed-method analysis of 1 year’s worth of political e-mails was used to compare and contrast how the Democratic and Republican parties employed e-mails during the 2014 election. Results reveal both parties placed a clear emphasis on fundraising and voter mobilization but also utilized distinct appeals, calls to action, and political narratives. Republican e-mails employed more interactive features and offered rewards that reinforced political hierarchies. The Republican narrative portrayed the ideal America as a relic of the past that must be reclaimed. Republicans asked readers to donate money in order to empower Republican leaders to win the war against President Obama—characterized as an unconstitutional and deceitful imperialist. Democrats were more aggressive in their request for donations, employed more personalized appeals and rewards, and asked readers to get involved with grassroots organizing. The Democratic narrative portrayed the ideal America as an inclusive, utopian society that exists in the future. Democrats encouraged readers to view themselves as central characters in the narrative, where their actions can and will have direct consequences for America’s future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-295
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Science Computer Review
Volume36
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

Keywords

  • 2014 U.S. election
  • online campaigns
  • political e-mails
  • political narratives
  • political parties

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