As part of a broader study of the online presence of parties, party leaders, and Presidential candidates in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., I tested whether and how rapidly their staffs responded to two types of emails (sent from separate fictitious accounts in the official language of each country): one asking for their positions on taxes (a cross-cutting issue that should not strongly differentiate between different types of parties), the other pledging to be willing to volunteer for them and asking for directions on how to do so. Emails were sent in the two weeks prior to national elections between 2007 and 2010 to a total of 142 parties and candidates. The results speak volumes to the lack of responsiveness among political actors: excluding automated responses, only one in five emails received a reply within one business day.
A few other interesting tidbits from Vaccari’s research:
[P]arties tend to respond more than candidates, that more resourceful parties are more likely to answer the issue question (but not the volunteer pledge, indicating that poorer parties are more careful not to waste opportunities to add volunteer hours), and that progressive parties tend to respond more than conservatives do. (In case you are interested, both during the 2008 primary and general election Barack Obama’s campaign answered both emails, whereas McCain’s did not. Overall, U.S. parties and Presidential candidates were less likely than average to reply to both emails.)