It's the Jobs, Stupid. What Italians Care about after the Elections
POLITICAL SCIENCES |

It's the Jobs, Stupid. What Italians Care about after the Elections

KEVIN C. DESOUZA AND MARIA CUCCINIELLO ARE ANALYZING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TWEETS. SOME CAMPAIGN TOPICS HAVE DISAPPEARED, WHILE THE MOST TALKED ABOUT POLITICIAN IS MATTEO RENZI

An ongoing analysis of Twitter activity regarding last Sunday’s Italian elections shows that jobs and security are the most discussed topics and Matteo Renzi the most talked about politician in the wake of the earthquake that hit Italian politics when polls results were released.
 
Kevin C. Desouza, Foundation Professor at Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs and Maria Cucciniello, an Assistant Professor at Bocconi, presented their analysis yesterday to the undergraduate students of the new Innovation and Big Data for the Public Sector course.
 
“Social media have been used by all parties in a national campaign for the first time in Italy. Five years ago, in fact, only the Movimento 5 Stelle was seriously active”, Prof. Cucciniello says. “Our analysis, though, doesn’t cover the propagandist use of Twitter before the polls, but the conversations following the electoral outcome. We are using PULSE, an analytics tool developed by the ASU Decision Theater under the leadership of Dr. Srinivasa Kandala, a co-researcher with Dr. Desouza. Desouza’s team has already used tools such as PULSE for other projects including the 2016 American elections”.
 
Once selected all the keywords and the relevant period, Pulse displays a network map showing who’s discussing the topics with whom on Twitter (see the above picture). It’s a fascinatingly ever-changing map, which factors in new tweets by the minute. The analysis started on Tuesday morning and, as Friday early morning, the system had analyzed more than 825,000 tweets.
 
As the deviation from standard clustering patterns can highlight an attempt to penetrate coherent networks with fake news, Prof. Desouza, in the classroom, was able to detect a bot junk account and determine where it was tweeting from, thanks to a geocontrol function of the tool.
 
“While jobs turned out to largely be the most popular topic, some hot themes of the electoral campaign are almost non-present”, Prof. Desouza says, “including immigration and pensions”.
 
Until Thursday evening, anyway, the hottest topic has been Matteo Renzi, surpassed in the cumulative count only Friday morning by Movimento 5 Stelle, the most voted party. Among the most popular hashtags, a few more regard the defeat of the left, including #PD (Mr. Renzi’s party, which fared much worse than expected) and #senzadime (#withoutme), a hashtag voicing the opposition to an eventual alliance between PD and Movimento 5 Stelle.
 
The politicians most frequently addressed on Twitter, in the first few days after the elections, have been the winners: @matteosalvinimi appeared over 710 times in three days, followed by Luigi Di Maio (@luigidimaio) over 500 times. At the other end of the spectrum, some politicians have almost disappeared from Twittersphere (Piero Grasso, Silvio Berlusconi, Emma Bonino). Somewhere in the middle, Matteo Renzi appeared oiver 150 times.
 
Prof. Desouza and Cucciniello’s analysis of the Italian post-electoral conversation on Twitter will continue for some months and will produce a few instant articles for the Brookings Institution and, later on, a scholarly paper.

by Fabio Todesco

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