You can download the full report (EN) and the executive summary (EN/IT) by clicking on the links below:
This study presents an analysis of the online media coverage in the run up of 2018 Italian General election. We illustrate how immigration, corruption and privileges of the elite – also related to a certain rhetoric on the inability of the state to protect the rights of the needy – were in fact the most salient topics throughout the months before and during the election. Both topics were largely central in both Salvini’s League and Di Maio’s Five Stars Movement agenda. Nevertheless, the leaders most frequently cited in online news articles were Matteo Renzi (PD) and Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia).
By deep diving into the contents of main leaders media coverage and respective social media engagement we document the centrality of stories unravelling around leaders’ legal issues, alleged collusion and scandals. While the media clusters emerging from the network analysis clearly resembles the tripartite structure of the contemporary Italian politics articulated in centre- left, centre-right and Five Stars Movement, the different weight and articulation within each cluster clearly describe the strengths of M5S and centre-right (largely dominated by the League) and the weakness of the centre-left.
While our analysis depicted a clear profile of the actors and topics that catalyzed the highest social media interactions and thus attention, we also illustrate a number of strategies employed by different communities to amplify the reach of contents aligned with own worldview while reframing negative coverage through comments. Overall, explicitly partisan and hyper-partisan sources catalyzed a significant share of the social media interactions performed by the online audience in the lead up of the election. The analysis includes the evaluation and mapping of the Italian media landscape from several perspectives and is based on large-scale data collection of online news articles published on the web, shared and interacted on Facebook and Twitter.
Overview of Methods
• Data collection of 84,815 news articles on Italian politics published between September 1 2017 and March 4 2018 (sources: Global Database of Society (GDELT), Google News, Twitter) with respective volume of Facebook interactions (reactions, comments and shares) observed every two hour for a week after publication (source: Facebook Graph API);
• The interactions on media sources by users on Twitter and Facebook provides a broader perspective of the role and influence of media sources among people engaged in politics through social media;
• The differential media sharing patterns of supporters of different Italian parties on Twitter enable a detailed analysis of the role of partisanship in the formation and function of media structures;
• Content analysis using automated tools supports the tracking of topics over time among media sources;
• Qualitative media analysis of individual cases studies enhances our understanding of media function, structure and patterns of partisan attention.