Just Published! A Sentiment-Democracy?


A sentiment democracy?
When (and when not) politicians follow their Followers

Journal of Language & Politics (Journal IF: 0.386)


Acknowledgements: Voices from the blogs (http://voices-int.com) for sharing data and for providing access to the platform VOICES ANALYTICS, which has been used to perform the analysis;  the participants at the International Symposium on Re/Constructing Politics through Social and Online Media (Stockholm, 20–21 June 2016)

What is worth remembering:

  • Time series analysis of debates on the civil unions bill unveils a top-down hierarchy, suggesting
    that MPs are treating SNS users more as followers rather than principals
  • Sentiment analysis applied to the Fertility Day debate highlights that the Minister adjusted the communication campaign to comply with the blame expressed on SNS, though she did not resign
  • These analyses portray a more optimistic view in terms of accountability and transparency particularly by bringing to light intra-party politics dynamics.
  • SNS allow frontbenchers but also backbenchers to heed to the wills of their main


Does the interaction with the opinions of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ affect the behavior of politicians? So far, little attention has been devoted to the effect of social networking sites (SNS) on ‘hard politics’ choices. Focusing on two case studies related to Italian politics, namely the debate on the civil unions bill and the ‘Fertility Day’ crisis, in 2016, this paper tries to fill this gap assessing the influence of SNS on the behavior of politicians. For this purpose, supervised aggregated sentiment analysis and time series analysis are used to evaluate whether politicians surrender to the pressure put on them by their followers. The findings highlight some positive effects in terms of accountability/transparency, though in terms of responsiveness politics seems to continue as usual, and the road toward a full ‘sentiment democracy’ is still far ahead.