In Canada, female mayors are more likely than mayors to have an account on a social network and use it more than their peers. But overall, very few of the first municipal magistrates use these tools to communicate with their constituents.
This is an element derived from the doctoral research work conducted by Catherine VR Sullivan, whose first results were published in the journal Information policy. This first article provides descriptive data on mayors’ social network acceptance rates and their active use, with particular interest in gender differences. The lack of information from elected municipal officials in Canada has led to the creation of this ambitious database.
Under the supervision of Frederick Bastian, Professor of Political Science at the University of Montreal, Mr.Me Sullivan collected data on 3,525 mayors from the 2016 census and used the election results.
Next, he looked at the proportion of mayors across the country who have a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram account, as well as those who actively used their digital accounts externally during election time.
M.Me Sullivan has made a point of studying the gender gap according to the size of the population of the municipality. It should be noted that gender was binary coded within the framework of this study. However, m.Me Sullivan examines gender performance in more detail in the rest of his essay and shows that this social structure is far from black or white.
Offline parity is still a long way off
Catherine VR Sullivan
The first observation that emerges from the data is that our notion of equality in municipal politics is wrong, as it is often assessed by combining the proportions of female mayors and female councilors. Considering only the selected positions of the head of a municipality, the results show that 19.4% of these positions are held by women.
Although there are still some female mayors, the results indicate that they are more numerous on social networks than mayors, and more active on the three platforms they have studied.
The results further indicate that smaller municipalities are more accessible to women seeking to be involved in politics, as municipalities with a population of 10,000 to 49,999 have more female mayors.
A positive gender gap
Although few mayors actively use social media, Facebook and Twitter remain the most popular platforms. In fact, 7.3% of mayors are active on their Facebook page and 6.6% are active on Twitter, whereas only 2.3% use Instagram.
The data also show that female mayors (18.2%) are more likely to have a Facebook account and use it than male mayors (10.8%) (12.1% vs. 6.2%).
Also, in larger cities, female mayors are seven times more likely to use Twitter than those who run smaller municipalities.
But could it be that because of the epidemic more mayors went on social media to reach out to the public outside of the election campaign?
“It is possible that captivity has led to an increase in the use of social networks during the epidemic, but with the observed increase in digital inconsistencies towards elected officials, it may also curb some ambition in this regard,” said shadow Katherine VR Sullivan.
A difference to explore further
How would you explain the difference between Canadian mayors’ use of social media accounts?
“On the one hand, my research project focuses on the professional accounts of these leaders, not on their personal accounts, and their experience on these platforms is not always positive, especially for women: various studies show that ‘many of them get more negative than men in municipal politics. – Even insulting – comments, ”said UdeM doctoral student.
Another explanation may be the possibility of social network isolation, which can be said to be the trend of traditional media. “According to the literature on women’s media coverage in politics, social media can be used to avoid biased media coverage of municipal politics. However, we need to keep in mind that social networks are not a cure-all.Me Sullivan.
Women are still under-represented in municipal politics
Katherine VR One of the results of Sullivan’s analysis is that women are still clearly under-represented in the position of Chief Municipal Magistrate: only 20% of these positions are held by women.
According to her, the results contradict the optimistic tone of the media coverage about the seemingly growing number of female candidates in municipal elections.
In one article he signed the magazine Policy options In November 2019, Mr.Me Sullivan writes specifically: “Despite research by academics, the notion that municipal politics is much more accessible to women remains in Canada. […] Those who have opposed this idea. Part of the problem is the excessive positive media coverage around women in municipal leadership positions, as well as the lack of data to refute or substantiate claims.