Referendums and social media: flaming keyboards or forums for deliberation?

Stephen Quinlan, Mark Shephard, Lindsay Paterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Referendums often fail to live up to a deliberative standard, with many characterised by low levels of knowledge, a lack of interest, misinformation, negativity, and a focus on issues besides the ones on which voters are voting on. Social media offers a means of ensuring referendums incorporate a greater deliberative dimension. Through a content analysis of the BBC Have Your Say discussion forums, we test whether online discussion of the upcoming Scottish independence referendum has deliberative characteristics. Results point to a mixed picture with conversation displaying some deliberative features (low levels of flaming and discussion of referendum related issues). However, low levels of discussion intensity, dominance of the discussion by the few, little knowledge exchange, and exceptionally high gender inequality suggest that online referendum discussion lacks deliberative features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-205
Number of pages14
JournalElectoral Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • referendums
  • deliberation
  • discussion forums
  • Scottish independence
  • online content analysis


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