Informations and abstract
Keywords: Female Leadership, Local Electoral Competition, Electoral Campaigns, Digital Campaigning, Social Media.
Our paper focuses on the intersection of three different dimensions: female leadership, local electoral competition, and digital communication. We wish to capture the main differences between female and male candidates in terms of digital campaigning, investigating the strategies and narratives used on the social media, the levels of interaction, the degree of personalization and intimate politics, the influence of pop politics, and the presence of gender issues. We do so by quantitively analysing Facebook posts collected over the 2016-2020 period, corresponding to five different local election campaigns. In total, our sample includes of 42 women and 70 men candidates for the office of mayor for one of the three major Italian political families (Centerleft, Center-right, 5 Star Movement), for a total of over 19,000 «election campaign» posts (i.e. published two months prior to the first election round). Through the study of different metrics and the development of an ontological dictionary, we test the existence of gender differences in local political leadership both in reference to the strategies adopted (frequency of publication, chosen themes) and in terms of digital success, that we operationalize as the number of post interactions. Our analysis suggests that there are indeed differences in the communication style and success of male and female candidates on social media, although these are often embedded and more easily appreciated within each political family.