Political Parties and New ICTs: Between Tradition and Innovation

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Davide Vittori,  in collaboration with Francesco Raniolo, & Valeria Tarditii

New chapter out in the book "Digital Parties. The Challenges of Online Organisation and Participation" edited by Oscar Barberà, Giulia Sandri, Patricia Correa & Juan Rodríguez-Teruel.


The literature on party change has shown how the advent of the digital revolution and the diffusion of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in twenty-first-century democracies has impacted on the way political parties communicate and perform their functions. Nonetheless, the literature has omitted the crucial issue of the political parties’ organizational reaction to the diffusion of ICTs. Our research question is thus whether and how ICTs have impacted the organizational model of political parties. The chapter evaluates the differences between (i) new and old parties and (ii) parties with different ideological orientations. We hypothesize that “new” parties—with no organizational legacy—prefer “disruptive innovations”, using new ICTs as functional equivalents of former organizational infrastructures. In this case, new ICTs are tools to establish direct links between leaders and members, responding to the competitive logic of challenger parties. By contrast, old parties—being subject to institutional inertia—introduce “sustaining innovations”, using new ICTs as additional tools for communicative or informative aims, rather than as a structural trait of the organization. Furthermore, we expect that left-wing parties use ICTs more frequently and as means to foster greater internal democracy compared to centre-right parties. This factor is linked to differences in theoretical conceptions of party organizations among parties with different ideological traditions. We test these hypotheses through a comparative analysis of the main political parties of different party families with different ages in four European countries: Italy, Spain, France and Greece.