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While various authors have suggested that introduction of the Internet will lead to substantial changes in political communication patterns, others have argued that traditional inequalities and patterns will only be reinforced. Websites of political parties play a specific role in this debate. On the one hand, they can be used by voters seeking information on various political parties. On the other hand, they might reach only those that are already 'converted' and have sufficient means to gather political information by other media. During the campaign for the 2006 local elections in Belgium, we conducted an online survey among visitors to party websites (n = 3,224). The analysis shows that a substantial majority of online visitors is male and highly educated. About 60 per cent of all respondents had already decided to vote for the party whose website they had just visited, but another 40 per cent clearly compared parties' positions and candidates. Our tentative conclusion therefore is that during electoral campaigns party websites will be used mainly by those who are already convinced about the programme and the candidates of that specific party.
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Keywords: Belgium; Internet; digital divide; election campaigns; party websites

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Leuven, Belgium

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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