Just Published! Twitter vs Media: First and Second level Agenda Setting in Italy


First and Second Level Agenda-Setting in the Twitter-Sphere. An Application to the Italian Political Debate

Journal of Information Technology & Politics

Co-authors: Luigi Curini & Stefano M. Iacus

Acknowledgments: Voices from the Blogs for providing data

What is worth remembering:

  • We analyze agenda-setting focusing on two salient issues in the Italian political debate: austerity and the public funding of parties (related to Euro-skepticism and anti-politics)
  • We compared Twitter and the Online News
  • Using a Lead-Lag statistical technique we find that mass media still retain
  • First-Level Agenda-Setting: They influence the Twitter-attention toward an issue
  • Journalists can act as watch-dogs as their action can promote further (public) discussion also on anti-establishment issues
  • Using Supervised Sentiment Analysis we find that mass media do not exert Second-Level Agenda-Setting: They do not influence the Twitter-attitudes toward an issue
  • We found a citizen-elite divide between the opinions expressed on SNS and the slant spread by the media elite


The rise of Social Network Sites re-opened the debate on the ability of traditional media to influence the public opinion and act as agenda-setter. To answer this question, the present paper investigates first-level and second-level agenda-setting effects in the online environment by focusing on two Italian heated political debates (the reform of public funding of parties and the debate over austerity). By employing innovative and efficient statistical methods like the lead-lag analysis and supervised sentiment analysis, we compare the attention devoted to each issue and the content spread by online news media and Twitter users. Our results show that online media keep their first-level agenda-setting power even though we find a marked difference between the slant of online news and the Twitter sentiment.