Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 14, issue 1

Tamara A. Small. "Equal Access, Unequal Success: Major and Minor Canadian Parties on the Net," Party Politics, 14 (January, 2008), 51-70.

First paragraph:
'On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog', reads the infamous 1993 New Yorker cartoon. This sketch of a dog using a keyboard and mouse talking to another dog speaks to the anonymous, inclusive and decentralized nature of the Internet. Anyone can participate online. The Internet wipes out distinctions based on appearance, location, class or lifestyle. Such characteristics fuel one early claim about e-politics, that the Internet has the capacity to equalize the playing field for minor actors - the equalization hypothesis. Cyber-optimists argue that all political organizations, regardless of ideology, financial and organizational capacity or appeal, have the same potential to reach citizens online. This is a clear benefit to any actor who is not normally acknowledged by traditional media. The equalization hypothesis states that the relatively low costs, lack of editorial control and decentralized nature of the Internet provide minor parties with numerous opportunities that do not exist offline (Ward et al., 2003).

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Registered political parties in the 2004 federal election
Table 2. Functions of Canadian party websites, 2004
Table 3. Effectiveness of Canadian party websites, 2004
Table 4. Visibility on search engine by party, 2004

Last paragraph:
The 2004 cyber-campaign shows that the Internet has had far from an equalizing effect on party politics in Canada. Offline and online, major and minor parties in Canada are not on a level playing field in terms of campaign communications. It is politics as usual. This is not to say that minor parties receive no benefit by being online. Even though minor parties on average perform fewer functions online than the major ones, all parties regardless of status may see many tangible benefits. Clearly, however, access does not translate into success. Even though minor parties have the same access to the Internet as the major parties, they are no more successful online. Whether this current state of e-politics will remain is uncertain. What the future holds for use of the Internet in Canadian campaigns is difficult to predict. The Internet is constantly evolving. But one thing we can be sure of is that, like lawn signs or television advertisements, websites will remain an important part of the campaign arsenal in Canada.

Last update December 2007