Just Published! Public Policy & Mobilization of Online Public Opinion

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The “Social Side” of Public Policy: Monitoring Online Public Opinion and Its Mobilization During the Policy Cycle

Policy & Internet

Co-author: Fedra Negri

Acknowledgments: Voices from the Blogs for providing data

 

What is worth remembering:

  • We found similarities between 1) Survey data, 2) online Sentiment, 3) online Government Consultation
  • Social media data can disclose citizens’ reaction to public policies
  • Social media data can capture stakeholders’ mobilization and de-mobilization processes

Abstract

This article addresses the potential role played by social media analysis in promoting interaction between politicians, bureaucrats, and citizens. We show that in a “Big Data” world, the comments posted online by social media users can profitably be used to extract meaningful information, which can support the action of policymakers along the policy cycle. We analyze Twitter data through the technique of Supervised Aggregated Sentiment Analysis. We develop two case studies related to the “jobs act” labor market reform and the “#labuonascuola” school reform, both formulated and implemented by the Italian Renzi cabinet in 2014–15. Our results demonstrate that social media data can help policymakers to rate the available policy alternatives according to citizens’ preferences during the formulation phase of a public policy; can help them to monitor citizens’ opinions during the implementation phase; and capture stakeholders’ mobilization and de-mobilization processes. We argue that, although social media analysis cannot replace other research methods, it provides a fast and cheap stream of information that can supplement traditional analyses, enhancing responsiveness and institutional learning.

Just Published! e-Campaigning and Valence Issues in EU Elections 2014

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e-Campaigning in the 2014 European elections. The emphasis on valence issues in a two-dimensional multiparty system

Party Politics (Journal IF: 1.830)

Co-authors: Luigi Curini

Replication material: andreaceron.com/publications

 

What is worth remembering:

  • Parties that are closer to many rivals adopt more valence campaigning
  • In two-dimensions this effect should be higher for ‘positive’ valence campaigning rather than ‘negative’ valence
  • In two-dimensions negative campaigning can benefit many other parties apart from the one that performs it (for proximity reasons)
  • In two-dimensions there is an incentive to tone down the debate
  • e-Campaigning on Twitter provides a novel precious source of information on political issues

Abstract

The article explores the relationship between the incentives of parties to campaign on valence issues and the ideological proximity between one party and its competitors. Building from the existing literature, we provide a novel theoretical model that investigates this relationship in a two-dimensional multiparty system. Our theoretical argument is then tested focusing on the 2014 European electoral campaign in the five largest European countries, through an analysis of the messages posted by parties in their official Twitter accounts. Our results highlight an inverse relationship between a party’s distance from its neighbors and its likelihood to emphasize valence issues. However, as suggested in our theoretical framework, this effect is statistically significant only with respect to valence positive campaigning. Our findings have implications for the literature on valence competition, electoral campaigns, and social media.

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

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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

Abstract

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.

Just Published! Social media electoral forecast: State-of-the-art

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Using Social Media to Forecast Electoral Results: A Review of the State of the Art

Italian Journal of Applied Statistics – Statistica Applicata

Co-authors: Luigi Curini & Stefano M. Iacus

Replication material: andreaceron.com/publications

Acknowledgments: Voices from the Blogs for providing data

What is worth remembering:

  • Many scholars tried to predict elections using social media
  • Some methods are better than others
  • Supervised sentiment analysis seems the best choice
  • Predictions are more accurate in countries with Proportional Representation

Abstract

The paper discusses the advantages of using Supervised Aggregated Sentiment Analysis (SASA) of social media to forecast electoral results and presents an extension of the ReadMe method (Hopkins and King, 2010), which is particularly suitable to addressing a large number of categories (e.g. parties) providing lower standard errors. We analyze the voting intention of social media users in several elections held between 2011 and 2013 in France, Italy, and the United States. We then compare 80 electoral forecasts made using these or other techniques of data-mining and sentiment analysis. The comparison shows that the choice of the method is crucial. Electoral forecasts are also more accurate in countries with higher Internet penetration and given the presence of electoral systems based on proportional representation.

Dissemination, Dissemination. L’informazione credibile è online, ma il circolo virtuoso no!

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Can we trust online news? Is the Web more credible than the press? The results of the last Eurobarometer survey are rather surprising, for a couple of reasons. Italians believe that the news spread on social media are reliable. Unfortunately, the information broadcast on social media does not produce (so far) a “virtuous circle” of trust in political institutions. To learn more read this article published on the academic blog LaVoce.info, which cites my paper Internet, News, and Political Trust: The Difference Between Social Media and Online Media Outlets” published on the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.

L’informazione online è attendibile? Più o meno della carta stampata? Il dato che emerge dall’ultima survey Eurobarometro è sorprendente e forse inquietante. Per almeno un paio di buone ragioni. Se gli italiani ritengono di poter trovare in Rete informazioni credibili, quello che invece online non si trova, almeno al momento, è la possibilità di generare un circolo virtuoso di fiducia nelle istituzioni. Per saperne di più leggete questo articolo pubblicato sul blog accademico LaVoce.info che rimanda al mio paper Internet, News, and Political Trust: The Difference Between Social Media and Online Media Outlets” pubblicato sul Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.

Just Published! Public Policy & Social Media

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Public Policy and Social Media: How Sentiment Analysis Can Support Policy-Makers Across the Policy Cycle

Rivista Italiana di Politiche Pubbliche

Co-author: Fedra Negri

Replication material: andreaceron.com/publications

Acknowledgments: Voices from the Blogs for providing data

What is worth remembering:

  • Sentiment analysis of social media posts can be useful to policy-makers
  • Social media data can serve as fire alarms to record the degree of trust in politics
  • Social media data can disclose citizens’ reaction to public policies
  • A ‘wisdom of the crowd’ approach to the evaluation of public policies is made possible by social media

Abstract

This article demonstrates that, in a «Big Data» world, comments of social media users can be used to support the action of policy-makers across all the steps of the policy cycle. It applies a modern technique of Supervised Aggregated Sentiment Analysis to three public policies introduced in Italy from 2012 to 2014: the abolishment of the public funding of political parties, the «jobs act» labour market reform and the «80 euros tax bonus». Results show that social media analysis can help policy-makers to accomplish the following tasks: 1) developing synthetic indicators that serve as «fire alarms» on relevant topics; 2) rating the available policy alternatives according to citizens’ preferences; 3) monitoring citizens’ behaviours and opinions during the implementation of a public policy.

Just Published! Changing politics, changing language: Ideology & Text analysis

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Changing politics, changing language.
The effect of institutional and communicative changes on political language measured through content analysis of Italian intra-party debates

Journal of Language & Politics (Journal IF: 0.231)

 

What is worth remembering:

  • In intra-party debates ideology (and left-right divide) still matter
  • Usage of populist words has not increased over time
  • Party leaders’ mentions have not increased over time
  • The clear ideological content of motions makes them suitable for estimating position of party factions
  • The clear ideological content of motions makes them suitable for automated text analysis (e.g. Wordfish)
  • The political ‘meaning’ of some words has changed over time (from left to right and vice versa). This risk must be acknowledged when using automated scaling techniques

Abstract

This paper examines the changes in political language that occurred after 1989 in Italy and focuses on textual documents drafted by intra-party subgroups between 1946 and 2010 that were related to the internal debates of Italian political parties. These documents, which are addressed to party members and activists rather than the wider public, have been analyzed through quantitative text analysis of word frequencies. The results confirm that a few relevant changes occurred that involve the lexicon, tone, and content of messages. However, concepts such as left and right are still relevant, and we observed neither a strong decline in the use of ideological terms nor a wider usage of populist words. Despite the growing personalization of politics, the main political leaders are not frequently mentioned, with two exceptions: Prodi and Berlusconi. Overall, there is a distance between intra-party politics and the logic of entertainment.

Just Published! The Difference between Online News and Social Media

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Internet, News, and Political Trust: The Difference Between Social Media and Online Media Outlets

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (Journal IF: 3.117)

Replication material: andreaceron.com/publications

Acknowledgments: Voices from the Blogs for sharing data.

What is worth remembering:

  • The slant of online news differs from the sentiment spread on social media
  • During scandals, news media also broadcast the views of political elites
  • Social media are more clear-cut and focus more on criticism
  • We find support for the ‘virtuous circle’ theory
  • The consumption of online news is associated with higher political trust
  • The consumption of news from social media is associated with lower political trust
  • Need to preserve the quality of news (professional v/ citizen journalism)

Abstract

What is the relationship between Internet usage and political trust? To answer this question, we performed a cross-sectional analysis of Eurobarometer survey data related to 27 countries and a supervised sentiment analysis of online political information broadcast during the Italian debate on the reform of public funding of parties. The results disclose the differences between Web 1.0 websites and Web 2.0 social media, showing that consumption of news from information/news websites is positively associated with higher trust, while access to information available on social media is linked with lower trust. This has implications for the debate on social media as a public sphere and for the tension between professional and citizen journalism.

Just Published! Measuring Online Euroscepticism

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Alla ricerca dell’euroscetticismo sui social media: un confronto tra 12 Stati membri in occasione delle elezioni europee 2014

Biblioteca della libertà

Co-author: Luigi Curini and Marco Mainenti 

Acknowledgments: Unicredit Bank and East on line for funding the project. Voices from the Blogs for providing data

What is worth remembering:

  • We provided an index of Euroscepticism through sentiment analysis
  • Online Euroscepticism is correlated with Trust in EU according to the Eurostat survey
  • We find a divide between supporters and opponents of a German-centric EU

Abstract

The present paper adopts a modern technique of sentiment analysis to analyze the comments published on social media concerning four types of EU related policies: austerity, labour policies, fiscal union and banking union. In the process the paper compares judgments made by public opinion in 12 different EU Member States. This analysis allows us to build an index of online Euroscepticism and shows that criticism is markedly higher on the topic of austerity, whereas European public opinion seems more favourable to the banking union. Online Euroscepticism is lower in Germany and in new Members States, and such index is correlated with the trust in European Union measured through traditional survey data.