Web-based political interaction
analysis of Ghana’s political party websites in general elections
The purpose of this research was to discover the importance of websites as a tool used by political parties in Ghana to engage the public. The study was conducted ahead of two general elections in Ghana – 2012 and 2016. The theoretical framework hinged on Kent and Taylor’s (1998) dialogic theory of public relations as well as the two-way symmetrical communication model based on modifications by Grunig (1992). Kent and Taylor (1998) identified four elements based on which the interactivity of websites can be analysed: ‘dialogic loop’, ‘the usefulness of information’, ‘maintaining visitors’, and ‘ease of interface’. In addition, the two-way symmetrical communication model, which offers essential elements for effective interactions, is also used. The qualitative study applied content analysis and in-depth interviews for data collection. Six websites were content-analysed in both 2012 and 2016, while six officials of the political parties, who had responsibility over the websites or contributed to their operations, were interviewed only in 2012. The study found that political parties used the websites, first, to disseminate information about their activities and, second, to interact with their supporters and voters. Nonetheless, the majority of the websites had very little or no interactive features. The study concluded that the majority of political parties in Ghana used their website as platforms to merely disseminate information and not to interact with their supporters. Recommendations were made for further studies to be carried out to find out the impact of websites on the campaign activities of political parties as well as the views of users of political party websites and other Internet resources.
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