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PhD Thesis defense of Salvador Percastre-Mendizábal about the use of social media in political campaigns

PhD Thesis defense of Salvador Percastre-Mendizábal about the use of social media in political campaigns


On Monday 17th of December, Salvador Percastre-Mendizábal defended his PhD thesis “Electoral political communication in the digital age. Twitter and social media in campaign: the case of 2015 intermediate elections in Mexico” in front of a jury of five professors.

For the last four years, Salvador Percastre-Mendizábal has been working for the Communication Department of the Pompeu Fabra University and simultaneously has been member of two different research groups, the POLCOM (UPF) and the ReSIC (Université Libre de Bruxelles). With a Master in Global Development Studies in Political Science and a degree in Communication Sciences, his research interests are the complex processes and interactions between the actors of political communication: media, politicians and citizens. More specifically, his aim is to explore communication in digital ecosystems, particularly in social media and emergency communication.

Because of his research interests, Salvador started his PhD thesis to explore the conceptual and analytical framework for digital political communication in a democracy. From this perspective, the case study of his thesis focused on the use and presence of different political parties and coalitions on digital social networks during the 2015 electoral campaign in Mexico. His thesis compares the electoral results of the main political groups with this case study to see if there are new forms of political participation emerging in digital communication platforms or if ancient logics of traditional political communication are repeated online.

By using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, Salvador concludes his research with stating that, firstly, the activity of parties in digital social media in Mexico is not directly related to the election results, and that more digital followers does not result in a greater number of votes. Secondly, he claims that due to increased online traffic, the internet has diminished the power of traditional media and complicated their agenda-setting effects. Thirdly, at the same time, he argues that the posts of some media channels did not have the expected impact, possibly because readers were interested in other subjects unrelated to the elections. Fourthly, he adds that the use of twitter was still incipient compared to other countries, such as Spain. Fifthly, he analyses that the most retweeted posts were those uploaded by certain media profiles, especially by the dominant media with the largest number of followers. Finally, and most importantly, Salvador concludes that the old logics of campaign communication continue through social media, but that social interaction platforms did have an influence on the political campaigns. For instance, the use of Twitter during campaigning reflects the consolidation of Twitter as a means for political messages and for grouping and identifying citizens with common ideological interests.

During his defense, Salvador was facing a jury consisting of professors Carles Pont Sorribes, Laura Calabrese, Lluís Codina Bonilla, Ludivine Thouverez and, connected via telematics from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, David Domingo. The first two jury members were also the thesis tutors of Salvador during his research and writings. Salvador himself started with presenting his research, sitting in front of the professors and supported by a clear presentation for both the audience and the jury. He initiated his talk with an introduction in French, followed by a thorough explanation in Catalan and Spanish about the methodology and the results, after which he demonstrated the conclusion in English. After this comprehensive and multilingual summary of four years of research, all the professors extensively commented on his presentation, each finishing with several critical questions, which Salvador would answer after the remarks of the professors were made. The thesis dissertation was approved with the maximum grade of ‘excellent’. His research can be found both in Spanish (here) and in English (here).