Social media provides a unique opportunity for politicians to control their message and has altered campaign tactics to avoid traditional media outlets, which often filter and interpret campaign messages. Despite this development, the potentially different opportunities for male and female candidates in their online campaigning efforts are a rather unexplored area. In this study, we address the importance of gender and how politicians use social media platforms for campaigning purposes. The role of gender in social media use is tested using survey data on Swedish candidates and behavioral data from Twitter before, during and after the 2014 European election. Our findings show gender-related patterns in how candidates assess the usefulness of social media as a campaign tool. Female candidates tend to value social media to a greater extent and evaluate social media use more positively than male candidates. We also find that the election campaign affects how male and female candidates interact with their followers. Although recent studies have found decreasing gender differences in campaign practices, the findings of this paper suggest that the role of gender must be studied to a greater extent in the context of online political communication, both during and between electoral campaigns.
Photo by: Esther Vargas