Fuzzy Choice – The Facebook Facade of The Triple Parliamentary Election Campaign 2021 In Bulgaria

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Conference Proceedings
Authors: Neli VelinovaLora MetanovaMariyan TomovLilia Raycheva

Abstract: The rapid advancement of ICTs has outstripped the theoretical rationalization, regulatory framework, business models, professional practices and audiences’ participation in contemporary democratic processes (Kaid L., Mazoleni G., Blumler JG, Esser F.). This new ‘mosaic culture’ is characterized by demassification of media and of society itself. A virtual online culture has been created which, due to its interactive nature, acts as integrating while having an alienating and restrictive impact on people, destroying ‘live’ communication. Nevertheless, media still stays among the main factors of the deliberative democracy, which should ensure fair and reasonable debate among citizens. Compared to traditional media, internet platforms and especially social networks are becoming increasingly popular channels for politicians to communicate with the electorate. The aim of the study undertaken by an academic team of the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication at the St. Kliment Ohridsky Sofia University of Bulgaria and supported by the National Scientific Fund (research project KP-06-M35/4-18.12.2019) focuses on the deficits of media literacy in pre-election online communication. The object is the dynamics of the online campaign for the three parliamentary elections in Bulgaria in 2021: one regular (April 4) and two preliminary (July 11 and November 14). They have been held under the shadow of social distance and strict observance of the anti-epidemic measures against COVID-19 and in conditions of political confrontation, hostile public speech, and neglected professional standards. The subject is related to the Facebook messages in the profiles of the political leaders within the one-month period of the three campaigns. The methodology is an empirical study and comparative analysis. The scope of the survey includes those political forces that have passed the 4% electoral threshold. The main research question of the study is how Facebook messages affect voter choiceThe results showed that during all the three election campaigns, Bulgarians preferred to be informed first by television, then by online platforms and most of all - by Facebook. However, the number of posts, the frequency of Facebook use, and the funds invested did not turn out to be directly proportional to the success achieved by the politicians. Relying on populism in various dimensions was a more profitable strategy. Thus, for some of the new political formations, aggressive rhetoric was winning. Online communication replaced politicians' live contact with the public, but numerous likes, comments and shares expanded the audience's reach. In the long run few of the Facebook profiles of political leaders who were elected MPs clearly presented their intentions in such a way that voters could have the opportunity to make informed choices. The results are indicative of the extent to which insufficient information, media and digital literacy as part of the civic education of electoral actors - regulators, politicians, media, analysts and audiences - affect informed voter choice. For successful participation of citizens in public debates on protecting, sustaining and developing of civic rights and democracy, a serious awareness of the risks and opportunities of the deliberative communication process needs to be studied.

Keywords: parliamentary election campaign, social networks, communication

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1002522

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