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Does the Internet Encourage Small Parties? A Case Study of the Minutiae of BC Politics, 1996–2009

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Researchers remain divided on what Small describes as ‘a key debate in the cyber-campaigning literature’¬†–¬†whether or not the emergence of the Internet enhanced the prospects of small parties on the periphery of mainstream politics that speak for those whose voices might otherwise go unheard. Often researchers have approached this question by seeking to establish if small parties are indeed able to maintain an on-line presence that matches that of larger, better resourced parties. The ultimate test of this ‘equalisation thesis’, however, is whether the Internet ushered in a period in which small parties could flourish. With its propensity to produce small parties and its rapid take-up of Internet technology from the mid-1990s onward, the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) is an ideal case study. The number of small BC parties increased in the decade beginning 1995, but a close scrutiny of the minutiae of BC politics in this period finds no evidence to support a claim that the Internet favoured small parties and enlarged the opportunity for marginalised citizens to participate in politics. ‘Cyber-optimists’ will have to look to unconventional forms of political activity for evidence that the Internet can draw new constituencies into politics.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Queensland,

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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