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Mayo-junio de 2022, vol. 31, núm. 3
Crisis en el espacio público/ Crisis in the public space

Third-order election. Spanish political parties’ communication on Facebook during the 2019 European Parliament election campaign

Vicente Fenoll

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Abstract: The 2019 European Parliament elections were held in Spain in a context of political fragmentation and polarisation, following the recent incorporation of the extreme right into the national parliament. Elections to the European Parliament are considered second-order elections and are sometimes used by citizens to cast a punishment vote, favouring new political actors of a contestatary character to gain visibility. Social media networks such as Facebook play an important role because they offer these parties a space where they can disseminate their messages on equal terms, beyond media control. This study conducts a content analysis of the posts published on Facebook by Spanish national political parties in the month prior to the 2019 local, regional and European elections. The main goal is to analyse the communication strategy used by Spanish political parties in this social media, in order to find out the importance given by the parties to the European elections and whether there are differences in strategy at each level. The results reveal that the European elections are a third-order election for Spanish parties, behind local elections. Most parties practice a dual campaign, in which the topics, goals and emotions posted on Facebook vary according to the political level at which they are targeted. This tendency is more pronounced in populist parties and seems to be shaped by the national political context and aimed at matching the concerns of Spaniards at the European level. Despite the incorporation of the extreme right into the Spanish political chessboard, the negative Eurosceptic discourse is only present in the two populist parties and does not affect the rest of the political forces.

Keywords: Political communication; Facebook; European Parliament election; Populism; Online mobilization; Negative campaigning.