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Research Note

Campaigning Online and Offline: Different Ballgames?

Presidentialization, Issue Attention and Negativity in Parties’ Facebook and Newspaper Ads in the 2019 Belgian General Elections

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2020
Trefwoorden political advertising, Belgium, social media, newspapers, campaign
Auteurs Jonas Lefevere, Peter Van Aelst en Jeroen Peeters
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This Research Note investigates party advertising in newspapers and on social media (Facebook) during the 2019 general elections in Flanders, the largest region of Belgium. The 2019 elections saw a marked increase in the use of social media advertising by parties, whereas newspaper advertising saw a decline. Prior research that compares multiple types of advertising, particularly advertising on social and legacy media remains limited. As such, based on a quantitative content analysis we investigate not just the prevalence of party advertising on both types of media, but also compare the level of negativity, presidentialisation, and issue emphasis. Our analysis reveals substantial differences: we find that not only the type of advertisements varies across the platforms, but also that social media ads tend to be more negative. Finally, parties’ issue emphasis varies substantially as well, with different issues being emphasized in newspaper and Facebook advertisements.


Jonas Lefevere
Jonas Lefevere is research professor of political communication at the institute for European Studies (VUB) and assistant professor at Vesalius College, Brussels.

Peter Van Aelst
Peter Van Aelst is a research professor at the department of political science at the University of Antwerp.

Jeroen Peeters
Jeroen Peeters is a PhD student at the department of political science at the University of Antwerp.
Article

Like Mother, Like Daughter?

Linkage Between Local Branches and Their National Party Headquarters in Belgium

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2020
Trefwoorden local branches, national party headquarters, linkage, integration, multilevel parties
Auteurs Kristof Steyvers
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article scrutinises local-national linkage in Belgium to better understand territorial power relations in multilevel parties. Drawing on a survey of local chairs of national parties, it adopts an innovative, informal and bottom-up approach. The descriptive analysis reveals two central axes in the morphology of linkage: scope (downward support and upward influence) and surplus (benefits versus costs). However, (the valuation of) this interdependence appears as a matter of degree. The explanatory analysis therefore probes into the effect of macro- (between environments), meso- (between parties) and micro- (within parties) level factors. It demonstrates that variance is explained by different parameters. For scope, differences between parties trump those within them. For surplus, specific differences between parties as well as within them matter. The answer to our guiding question is therefore variegated: it depends on for what and for whom.


Kristof Steyvers
Kristof Steyvers is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science of Ghent University (Belgium). His research is conducted in the Centre for Local Politics, where he focuses on topics such as local political leadership, parties and elections at the local level, local government in multilevel governance and local government reforms (often from a comparative perspective).
Article

An Actor Approach to Mediatization

Linking Politicians’ Media Perceptions, Communication Behaviour and Appearances in the News

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering Online First 2020
Trefwoorden mediatization, politicians, news media, media perceptions, news management
Auteurs Pauline Ketelaars en Peter Van Aelst
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    In the light of the broader debate on the mediatization of politics, this study wants to better understand how the media perceptions and media behaviour of politicians are related to their appearances in the news. We opt for an innovative actor-centred approach to actually measure the views and actions of individual politicians. We combine surveys conducted with 142 Belgian representatives with data on politicians’ external communication behaviour and on their appearances in television news, newspapers and news websites. The results show that media behaviour is not so much related to beliefs of media importance. We do find a significant positive relationship between strategic media behaviour and media attention suggesting that politicians who put in more effort appear more often in various news media. However, this positive relationship depends on the specific form of strategic communication and the political position of the legislator. Our study adds to the mediatization literature by showing how and when politicians are successful in obtaining media attention.


Pauline Ketelaars
Pauline Ketelaars, University of Antwerp, Antwerpen, Belgium.

Peter Van Aelst
Peter Van Aelst, University of Antwerp, Antwerpen, Belgium. Corresponding Author.
Literature Review

Access_open Preference Voting in the Low Countries

A Research Overview

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 1 2020
Trefwoorden elections, electoral systems, preference voting, candidates, personalization
Auteurs Bram Wauters, Peter Thijssen en Patrick Van Erkel
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Preference votes constitute one of the key features of (open and flexible) PR-list electoral systems. In this article, we give an extensive overview of studies conducted on preference voting in Belgium and the Netherlands. After elaborating on the definition and delineation of preference voting, we scrutinize studies about which voters cast preference votes (demand side) and about which candidates obtain preference votes (supply side). For each of these aspects, both theoretical approaches and empirical results are discussed and compared. At the same time, we also pay attention to methodological issues in these kinds of studies. As such, this research overview reads as an ideal introduction to this topic which has repercussions on many other subfields of political science.


Bram Wauters
Bram Wauters is an associate professor at the Department of Political Sciences of Ghent University, where he leads the research group GASPAR. His research interests include political representation, elections and political parties, with special attention to diversity. He has recently published in journals such as International Political Science Review, Party Politics, Political Studies, and Political Research Quarterly. He is co-editor (with Knut Heidar) of ‘Do parties still represent?’ (Routledge, 2019).

Peter Thijssen
Peter Thijssen is a professor at the Department of Political Science of the University of Antwerp, where he is a member the research group M2P (Media, Movements and Politics). His research focuses on political sociology, public opinion and political participation. He has published in such journals as British Journal of Sociology, Electoral Studies, Energy Policy, European Journal of Social Theory, Party Politics and Risk Analysis. He has co-edited ‘New Public Spheres’ (Ashgate, 2013) and ‘Political Engagement of the Young’ (Routledge, 2016).

Patrick Van Erkel
Patrick van Erkel is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science of the University of Antwerp, where he is connected to the research group M2P (Media, Movements and Politics). His research interests include electoral behavior, public opinion, political communication and polarization. He has published in journals such as the European Journal of Political Research, Electoral Studies, European Political Science Review and the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties.
Research Notes

Paid Digital Campaigning During the 2018 Local Elections in Flanders

Which Candidates Jumped on the Bandwagon?

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2019
Trefwoorden local elections, candidates, campaign spending, digital campaigning
Auteurs Gunther Vanden Eynde, Gert-Jan Put, Bart Maddens e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This research note investigates the role of paid digital campaigning in the 2018 local elections in Flanders. We make use of the official declarations which candidates are legally required to submit. In these declarations, candidates indicate whether and how much they invested in online campaigning tools during the four months preceding the elections. We collected data on a sample of 3,588 individual candidates running in the 30 municipalities of the Leuven Arrondissement. A multilevel logistic regression model shows that the odds of spending on digital campaigning increases among incumbent aldermen and local councillors. The latter finding supports the normalization thesis of digital campaigning. The results also show that scale is important – the more potential voters a candidate has, the higher the odds that the candidate invests in digital tools.


Gunther Vanden Eynde
Gunther Vanden Eynde is a doctoral researcher at the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute. His research interests include political finance, campaign spending and the social media campaigns of Belgian political parties and their candidates.

Gert-Jan Put
Gert-Jan Put is a Senior Researcher at the Research Center for Regional Economics, KU Leuven. His research focuses on candidate selection and intra-party competition, and has been published in Political Behavior, Party Politics and Electoral Studies.

Bart Maddens
Bart Maddens is a professor of political science at the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute His research interests include political finance, elections and multi-level systems. His work has been published in West European Politics, Party Politics and Electoral Studies.

Gertjan Muyters
Gertjan Muyters is a doctoral researcher at the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute. His research focuses on candidate turnover and political careers.

Sofie Hennau
Sofie Hennau is a postdoctoral research at the Center for Government and Law, Hasselt University. Her research focuses on local elections and on the relationship between politics and administration at the local level.

Johan Ackaert
Johan Ackaert is professor at the Center for Government and Law, Hasselt University. His research interests are local government and local governance.
Article

Split-Ticket Voting in Belgium

An Analysis of the Presence and Determinants of Differentiated Voting in the Municipal and Provincial Elections of 2018

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2019
Trefwoorden split-ticket voting, local elections, voting motives, Belgium, PR-system
Auteurs Tony Valcke en Tom Verhelst
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article tackles the particular issue of split-ticket voting, which has been largely overlooked in Belgian election studies thus far. We contribute to the literature by answering two particular research questions: (1) to what extent and (2) why do voters cast a different vote in the elections for the provincial council as compared to their vote in the elections for the municipal council?
    The article draws on survey data collected via an exit poll in the ‘Belgian Local Elections Study’, a research project conducted by an inter-university team of scholars.
    Our analysis shows that nearly 45% of the total research population cast a split-ticket vote in the local elections of 2018. However, this number drops to one out of four if we only consider a homogenous party landscape at both levels by excluding the numerous votes for ‘local’ lists (which occur mostly at the municipal level). This finding underlines the importance of accounting for the electoral and institutional context of the different electoral arenas in research on split-ticket voting in PR systems. In the Belgian context, split-ticket voting in 2018 also differed between the different parties and regions. Furthermore, it was encouraged by a higher level of education and familiarity with particular candidates. This candidate-centred and strategic voting was matched by party identification and the urban municipal context favouring straight-ticket voting. Other factors such as region, a rural municipal context and preferential voting seemed more relevant to determine voting for local parties than using the instrument of split-ticket votes as such.


Tony Valcke
Tony Valcke is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of Ghent University (Belgium). He is a member of the Centre for Local Politics (CLP) and coordinator of the Teacher Training Department. His research, publications and educational activities focus on elections and democratic participation/innovation, (the history of) political institutions and (local) government reform, political elites and leadership, citizenship (education).

Tom Verhelst
Tom Verhelst is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at Ghent University (Belgium) and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Political Science at Maastricht University (the Netherlands). His research focuses on the Europeanisation of local government (with a particular interest for the regulatory mobilisation of local government in EU decision-making processes) and on the role and position of the local council in Belgium and the Netherlands (with a particular interest for local council scrutiny).
Research Notes

Sub-Constituency Campaigning in PR Systems

Evidence from the 2014 General Elections in Belgium

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2019
Trefwoorden Sub-constituency campaigning, PR system, political advertisements, election campaign, content analysis
Auteurs Jonas Lefevere, Knut De Swert en Artemis Tsoulou-Malakoudi
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Sub-constituency campaigning occurs when parties focus their campaign resources on specific geographical areas within an electoral district. This behaviour was traditionally thought to occur only in single-member plurality elections, but recent research demonstrates that proportional systems with multi-member districts can also elicit sub-constituency campaigning. However, most studies of sub-constituency campaigning rely on self-reported measures of campaigning, not direct measures of campaign intensity in different regions and communities. We present novel data on geographical variations in the intensity of Flemish parties’ campaign advertising during the 2014 general elections in Belgium, which provides a direct measure of sub-constituency campaigning. Our findings show clear evidence of sub-constituency campaigning: parties campaign more intensely in municipalities where they have stronger electoral support and in municipalities with greater population density.


Jonas Lefevere
Jonas Lefevere is assistant professor at Vesalius College and the Institute for European Studies (VUB). His research interests include the strategic communication of political elites, the effects of campaign communication on political attitudes and electoral choice and the role of issue perceptions in electoral behavior.

Knut De Swert
Knut De Swert is Assistant Professor, Political Communication and Journalism, at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands). His research is situated in the field of media and politics, and mainly focuses on the quality of (political) journalism and foreign news in a comparative perspective.

Artemis Tsoulou-Malakoudi
Artemis Tsoulou-Malakoudi is a student research assistant for the EOS research project RepResent which focuses on representation and democratic resentment. She is currently following a Research Master’s at the University of Amsterdam with an interest in political communication research.
Article

Split Offer and Homogeneous Response in Belgium

The Conceptual and Empirical Limitations of (De)Nationalization

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2019
Trefwoorden (de-)nationalization, voting behaviour, party offer, voter response, methodological nationalism
Auteurs Luana Russo, Kris Deschouwer en Tom Verthé
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    By examining the Belgian case, this article aims to show that methodological nationalism is strongly present in the literature on nationalization of party offer and voting behaviour. In nationalization studies, Belgium is often presented as a typical example of a denationalized country. This is true for the party offer, as it is de facto split between the two language groups since the 1980s, and therefore also voter response at the national level. However, voter response within each separate subnational party system is very homogeneous and shows interesting differences between these party systems that inform us about important electoral dynamics. We argue, on the basis of our results, that rather than stretching the concept of nationalization, it is preferable and justified to treat the concepts of nationalization of the party offer and homogenization of voter response as analytically distinct and not as two sides of the same coin.


Luana Russo
Luana Russo, Maastricht University.

Kris Deschouwer
Kris Deschouwer, Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Tom Verthé
Tom Verthé, Ghent University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
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