chapter  19
14 Pages

Something old, something new?: modelling political communication in the 2010 UK general election

ByJenny Lloyd

It might be argued that political communication is one of the primary drivers of an effective democracy (Cook 1998) and, as such, an understanding of the political communication process is essential to those seeking to work within one. In its most simple form, ‘political communication’ has been defined as the transmission of political messages between government and voters (Baek 2009). However, it is clear that the contemporary political communication landscape is much more complex than this. According to Manheim (2011), in addition to conventional sources, modern political communication has also evolved to include messages from non-governmental sources such as advocacy groups, corporations, international organisations and even insurgent and terrorist groups. These touch every aspect of contemporary political life with their aim to not only inform but to influence and persuade. It is not only the nature of the participants in the communication process that have devel-

oped; the media channels and vehicles through which political messages flow have also altered significantly over recent decades. It has been noted that the growth and proliferation of digital technology has resulted in an increasingly fragmented media landscape (Jenkins 2006) and a greater propensity for consumers to be more selective in their media choices (Bennett and Iyengar 2008). Furthermore, public disillusionment with political institutions (Mortimore 2002) and with conventional media and journalism (Hamilton 2004) suggests a propensity for voters to look to non-conventional sources of information, which they believe have greater authenticity. It is thought that the structure and organisation of the media affects political actors’ ability to

diffuse their messages amongst the voting public and, as such, has the potential to negatively impact upon the voters’ ability to cast informed votes (Bennett 1990; Bennett et al. 2007; Bennett and Iyengar 2008). This being the case, it becomes imperative that those who see the media as an essential pillar in the support of effective democracy understand the logistical implications posed by the new media landscape so that they can plan their media campaigns in a way that can target specific voter groups but also can proactively respond to the non-conventional political influences in the contemporary communication environment.