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Provincial and Territorial Politics in Canada and Beyond

J08 - Media and Politics

Date: Jun 5 | Time: 08:45am to 10:15am | Location: SWING 206

Chair/Président/Présidente : Brooks DeCillia (University of Calgary)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Brooks DeCillia (University of Calgary)

Worth a Thousand Words: Image-Based Gendered Self-Presentation on Twitter: Andrew Mattan (University of Guelph), Tamara A. Small (University of Guelph)
Abstract: “A picture is worth a thousand words” is not merely a cliché. Studies show that visuals can be more effective than text in: garnering a viewer’s attention, providing informational shortcuts that are more accessible and memorable to voters, eliciting or increasing a viewer’s emotive response, and influencing a voter’s perception of political actors. This phenomenon, known as the “picture superiority effect” suggests that photographs can communicate a significant amount of political information to voters and, potentially, influence their electoral decisions. Accordingly, political actors must make strategic choices in their self-presentation, particularly when considering how to respond to voters’ gender-based stereotypes. Strategic stereotype theory suggests that political actors will either emphasize or rescind gender-based stereotypes depending on whether they believe them to be advantageous or deleterious to their political image. There is evidence to suggest that there are gendered differences in how female and male candidates present themselves on digital technologies (see Bystrom et al., 2004; Cmeciu, 2014; Nashmi & Painter, 2017). The objective of this paper is to explore gendered self-presentation in images on Twitter during the 2018 Ontario election. Drawing on analyses such as Schneider (2014) and McGregor et al. (2016) on gender-based strategies on digital technologies, we assess photo-based tweets produced by the three party leaders the writ period. While there is a small but growing literature on digital visual political communication, less is known on how political leaders visually incorporate Twitter into their campaigning strategies.

Canadian Party Switching and Media Framing at the Provincial Level of Analysis: Matthew Kerby (Australian National University), Mireille Lalancette (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières), Alex Marland (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Jared Wesley (University of Alberta)
Abstract: While the subject of party switching in Canada has attracted recent academic attention (Snagovsky and Kerby 2018; Sevi et al. 2018) the focus resides at the federal level with an eye to party and election effects. In this paper we shift the focus to the provincial level where the occurrence of party switching is higher and the variance that informs both cause and effect is wider. Rather than focus on party switching as an effect of the party system or an (ir)rational pursuit of political/electoral survival we examine the manner in which the media interprets and frames party switching when it occurs. A long-established literature highlights the significance of media for agenda setting, framing and branding political phenomena in Canada (Soroka 2002, Marland; 2016). We build on this tradition and add party switching to the Canadian media and politics canon. In this descriptive exploration we harvest over 6000 newspaper articles from local and national outlets to build a comprehensive dataset of provincial-level party switchers for the period 1980-2019. Each article is individually analysed using statistical natural language processing and sentiment analysis with the aim of correctly identifying relevant party switchers, the nature and context of their switch and the positive or negative sentiment of the switch as presented in the article. The findings of these data will be used to inform future research on the determinants of regional and temporal variation with respect to the frequency and contextualization of party switching at the provincial level of politics.

How do Candidates Present Themselves in Social Media? The Race for Premiership in Western Canadian Elections 2011 – 2017: Michelle Irving (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Amanda Bittner (Memorial University of Newfoundland)
Abstract: Premiers are powerful political actors. 6 of 8 women who have served as premier gained office in 2010 or soon after. Half of these women were elected in Alberta and BC and come from all three major parties. The barriers facing women who enter politics are well-established. Yet, how women (and men) choose to present themselves in election campaigns has not received much attention. Are candidates constrained by party labels or gendered stereotypes in the way that they present themselves during campaigns? Voters have partisan and gendered expectations of candidates, and the literature suggests that candidates will shape their campaigns to have wide appeal. It seems reasonable to expect that these decisions will extend beyond the “traditional” campaign to their social media presence as well, but we really do not know. In this paper, we ask two questions: first, do candidates conform to gendered stereotypes in their social media presence? Second, is candidate self-presentation on social media influenced by the party label? To answer these questions, we assess the twitter feeds of party leaders seeking the premiership in elections in Alberta and British Columbia from 2011 to 2017. We analyze the use of agentic and communal language in candidate tweets to determine how, and in what ways, stereotypical gender norms impact a candidate’s self-presentation to the public. Assessing the ways in which women candidates seek entry and find success in political institutions will help us to better understand the pathways to women’s access and representation in political office.