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From out-group to in-group? An international comparative analysis of gender differences in social media adoption and activity by politicians

Elise Storme (UGent)
(2024)
Author
Organization
Abstract
Despite the surge in research on politicians' social media use (Bauer et al., 2023; Haman, 2023) only limited attention has been devoted to the gender factor (Yarchi & Samuel-Azran, 2018). However, social media platforms have the ability to shape power dynamics among political actors. Given the fierce underrepresentation of female politicians in traditional media (van der Pas & Aaldering, 2020) and women's general out-group status (Beltran et al., 2021), social media provide women with a unique opportunity to make their voices heard. In addition, the scarce empirical studies that do explicitly look at the gendered dynamics of social media between politicians mainly focus on Anglo-American two-party contexts (Evans & Clark, 2016; Evans et al., 2014; Jackson & Lilleker, 2011; Wagner et al., 2017) or election periods (Dolezal, 2015; Holm et al., 2023; Sandberg & Öhberg, 2017; Vergeer et al., 2013; Yarchi & Samuel-Azran, 2018) and many date back to the previous decade. In this article, we examine the question as to whether social media can function as an equalizer between male and female politicians or rather contribute to the reproduction of unequal power structures. To provide insights into the Equalization theory (Jacobs & Spierings, 2016; Rauchfleisch & Metag, 2020), our research takes a novel approach by focusing on routine times instead of election periods. Previous evidence suggests that the gender inequality in traditional media representation is more pronounced during non-election periods (Aaldering & van der Pas, 2018), making this a most-likely case to find support for the Equalization theory. Furthermore, there is a significant scarcity of comparative studies conducted on the subject. However, it is crucial to consider contextual factors at play. The Equalization theory posits that individuals who face disadvantages and are part of the out-group in political settings strive to gain an advantage through their use of social media (Beltran et al., 2021). Therefore, it is imperative to concentrate on countries with varying political power for women to examine the dynamics of equalization correctly. Based on the assumption that individuals who are part of the out-group are more likely to employ social media as a means of compensating for their disadvantaged position, we anticipate that the disparity in social media adoption and activity levels will vary across countries, with more significant differences between male and female politicians observed in nations where women have a low level of political power, i.e., our most-likely case. To test our hypotheses, we opt for a comparative design to quantitatively study the adoption and activity degree of female and male MPs (N = 1246) on Twitter throughout 2022 in four countries with varying political power scores (as a proxy for female politicians belonging to the marginalized group): Finland (91.1), Belgium (80.9), Germany (67.8), and Ireland (48.8). The logistic and negative binomial regression models offer a nuanced perspective on the applicability of the Equalization theory within the context of social media. Contrary to prevailing assumptions, our research does not reveal clear gender imbalances in social media engagement among politicians. It is noteworthy that even in most-likely scenarios with substantial gender disparities in traditional media representation and in countries with low political power scores for women, we find no statistically significant gender differences in social media use. These results challenge the Equalization theory's fundamental premise that social media platforms unequivocally serve as equalizers, suggesting that the relationship between social media and gender in politics is more intricate than initially thought.

Citation

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MLA
Storme, Elise. From Out-Group to in-Group? An International Comparative Analysis of Gender Differences in Social Media Adoption and Activity by Politicians. 2024.
APA
Storme, E. (2024). From out-group to in-group? An international comparative analysis of gender differences in social media adoption and activity by politicians. Presented at the Etmaal, Rotterdam.
Chicago author-date
Storme, Elise. 2024. “From Out-Group to in-Group? An International Comparative Analysis of Gender Differences in Social Media Adoption and Activity by Politicians.” In .
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Storme, Elise. 2024. “From Out-Group to in-Group? An International Comparative Analysis of Gender Differences in Social Media Adoption and Activity by Politicians.” In .
Vancouver
1.
Storme E. From out-group to in-group? An international comparative analysis of gender differences in social media adoption and activity by politicians. In 2024.
IEEE
[1]
E. Storme, “From out-group to in-group? An international comparative analysis of gender differences in social media adoption and activity by politicians,” presented at the Etmaal, Rotterdam, 2024.
@inproceedings{01HNCNNYP6B2SBCHQSKN8ES5D1,
  abstract     = {{Despite the surge in research on politicians' social media use (Bauer et al., 2023; Haman, 2023) only limited attention has been devoted to the gender factor (Yarchi & Samuel-Azran, 2018). However, social media platforms have the ability to shape power dynamics among political actors. Given the fierce underrepresentation of female politicians in traditional media (van der Pas & Aaldering, 2020) and women's general out-group status (Beltran et al., 2021), social media provide women with a unique opportunity to make their voices heard. In addition, the scarce empirical studies that do explicitly look at the gendered dynamics of social media between politicians mainly focus on Anglo-American two-party contexts (Evans & Clark, 2016; Evans et al., 2014; Jackson & Lilleker, 2011; Wagner et al., 2017) or election periods (Dolezal, 2015; Holm et al., 2023; Sandberg & Öhberg, 2017; Vergeer et al., 2013; Yarchi & Samuel-Azran, 2018) and many date back to the previous decade. 
In this article, we examine the question as to whether social media can function as an equalizer between male and female politicians or rather contribute to the reproduction of unequal power structures. To provide insights into the Equalization theory (Jacobs & Spierings, 2016; Rauchfleisch & Metag, 2020), our research takes a novel approach by focusing on routine times instead of election periods. Previous evidence suggests that the gender inequality in traditional media representation is more pronounced during non-election periods (Aaldering & van der Pas, 2018), making this a most-likely case to find support for the Equalization theory. 
Furthermore, there is a significant scarcity of comparative studies conducted on the subject. However, it is crucial to consider contextual factors at play. The Equalization theory posits that individuals who face disadvantages and are part of the out-group in political settings strive to gain an advantage through their use of social media (Beltran et al., 2021). Therefore, it is imperative to concentrate on countries with varying political power for women to examine the dynamics of equalization correctly. Based on the assumption that individuals who are part of the out-group are more likely to employ social media as a means of compensating for their disadvantaged position, we anticipate that the disparity in social media adoption and activity levels will vary across countries, with more significant differences between male and female politicians observed in nations where women have a low level of political power, i.e., our most-likely case.
To test our hypotheses, we opt for a comparative design to quantitatively study the adoption and activity degree of female and male MPs (N = 1246) on Twitter throughout 2022 in four countries with varying political power scores (as a proxy for female politicians belonging to the marginalized group): Finland (91.1), Belgium (80.9), Germany (67.8), and Ireland (48.8).
The logistic and negative binomial regression models offer a nuanced perspective on the applicability of the Equalization theory within the context of social media. Contrary to prevailing assumptions, our research does not reveal clear gender imbalances in social media engagement among politicians. It is noteworthy that even in most-likely scenarios with substantial gender disparities in traditional media representation and in countries with low political power scores for women, we find no statistically significant gender differences in social media use. These results challenge the Equalization theory's fundamental premise that social media platforms unequivocally serve as equalizers, suggesting that the relationship between social media and gender in politics is more intricate than initially thought.}},
  author       = {{Storme, Elise}},
  language     = {{und}},
  location     = {{Rotterdam}},
  title        = {{From out-group to in-group? An international comparative analysis of gender differences in social media adoption and activity by politicians}},
  year         = {{2024}},
}