Just Published! Competing Principals 2.0? Facebook, Renzi and the 2013 Head of State Election


Competing Principals 2.0? The impact of Facebook in the 2013 selection of the Italian Head of State

Italian Political Science Review / Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica

Acknowledgments: Alberto Fragapane and Alessandra Cremonesi for their contribution to data collection. Two anonymous leaders of the former right-wing PD minority faction for providing ‘expert’ information on the factional affiliation of PD MPs.

Replication material: 

andreaceron.com/publications OR http://thedata.harvard.edu/dvn/dv/ipsr-risp

What is worth remembering:

  • Facebook pressure did not affect MPs’ propensity to express public dissent over the party line
  • Contrary to the general wisdom, unexperienced MPs selected through primaries did not conform to social media requests
  • Social media were not (yet) a new ‘competing principals’
  • More traditional ‘principals’ played a role: factional membership, seniority, primary
  • ‘Sentimeter’ guys were right
  • It’s not so easy to publish ‘negative’ findings!


Motivated by the literature on ‘competing principals’, this article studies the effect of interactive social networking sites on the behavior of politicians. For this purpose, 12,455 comments posted on the Facebook walls of 423 Italian MPs have been analyzed to assess whether Facebook played a role in the selection of the Italian Head of State in 2013, enhancing responsiveness. The statistical analysis reveals that the pressure exerted through social media did not affect MPs’ propensity to express public dissent over the party line, which is instead affected by more traditional ‘principals’ and factors: seniority, primary elections, and factional membership.

Just Published! Public Policy & Mobilization of Online Public Opinion


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


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.