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This book illustrates how social media platforms enable us to understand everyday politics and evaluates the extent to which they can foster accountability, transparency and responsiveness. The first part focuses on accountability and tests whether the offline behavior of politicians is consistent with their online declarations, showing that textual analysis of politicians’ messages is useful to explain phenomena such as endorsements, party splits and appointments to cabinet. The second part concerns responsiveness. By means of sentiment analysis, it investigates the shape of the interaction between citizens and politicians determining whether politicians’ behavior is influenced by the pressure exerted on social media both on policy and non-policy issues. Finally, the book evaluates whether a responsive behavior is successful in restoring online political trust, narrowing the gap between voters and political elites. The book will be of use to students, scholars and practitioners interested in party organization, intra-party politics, legislative politics, social media analysis and political communication, as well as politicians themselves.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

1. Social Media, Political Institutions and the Principal–Agent Dilemma

Abstract
Chapter 1 presents the theoretical framework of the book. It starts to discuss the transformation from the Web 1.0 to the Web 2.0 and 3.0, to investigate whether this can produce a revolution or, alternatively, politics will continue as usual. After reviewing the existing literature, this chapter proposes two different frameworks, based on the principal–agent dilemma. One focuses on the idea that social media represent a new additional ‘principal’ for politicians. The other considers them as a tool available to traditional principals. These two frameworks will be tested through the book.
Andrea Ceron

2. Research Design and Methods

Abstract
Chapter 2 presents the research design of the book, explaining the relevance of the Italian case, the selection of specific case studies addressed in the empirical chapters, and the choice of a wide time span, which allows the cumulative effect of innovation to be accounted for. It also provides details of the methodology, describing the main principles of text analysis and describing two different techniques that are employed throughout the chapters, namely Wordfish (automated scaling) and SASA (supervised aggregated sentiment analysis).
Andrea Ceron

3. Endorsements in Primary Elections

Abstract
Chapter 3 proves that the statements published on social media can be analyzed profitably through automated scaling techniques of text analysis in order to map the intra-party structure of a party; it analyzes comments written by prominent factional leaders of the Italian Democratic Party to measure their ideological distance. Statistical analysis shows that such distance can explain a politician’s propensity to endorse one or another candidate running for the party nomination and it is positively associated with the propensity to overtly criticize a candidate.
Andrea Ceron

4. Ministerial Selection: Twitter as a Signal?

Abstract
Chapter 4 deals with the role of social media in the process of government formation. It analyzes the comments released on Twitter by politicians belonging to the PD, in order to record their distance from the party line. The results show that such distance has an effect on the politician’s career and emphasize the role of Twitter as a signal, suggesting that it can be used by politicians both for position-taking purposes and for boosting their own career. Furthermore, the impact of the ideological distance seems conditional on the context and the nature of the ruling coalition.
Andrea Ceron

5. Parliamentary Behavior: Rebels and Switchers

Abstract
Chapter 5 analyzes the comments published by politicians belonging to the three main Italian parties showing that such data allow us to draw inferences regarding their parliamentary behavior. The results of the statistical analysis highlight that politicians whose views are far from those of the party leader vote more often against the party line in roll-call votes and are more likely to leave the parliamentary party group. These results yield implications in term of intra-party democracy and political accountability.
Andrea Ceron

6. “Competing Principals” 2.0? The Pressure of SNS Users

Abstract
Chapter 6 tries to evaluate whether the pressure exerted through SNS affects the behavior of politicians. It investigates three case studies related to ‘hard politics’ choices, such as the pressure put on MPs through Facebook during the selection of the Italian Head of State in 2013, the decision of M5S representatives to defy the party leader during the debate on the Civil Unions Bill, and the request for the resignation of the Minister of Health after the ‘Fertility Day’ crisis in September 2016. The analyses reveal that on such key decisions SNS have no impact and the political elites still exert leadership. The implications in terms of transparency are discussed.
Andrea Ceron

7. Social Media, Collective Action and Public Policy

Abstract
Chapter 7 takes into account the role of SNS in the field of public policy. Supervised sentiment analysis is used to monitor the evolution of the attitudes expressed by online public opinion in three different case studies concerning: the Italian labor market reform ‘Jobs Act’ (2014); the ‘€80 tax bonus’ (2014); the school reform ‘#labuonascuola’ (2015). The comparison between these studies suggests that policy-makers respond to the opinions of the ‘activated public opinion’ of SNS only when they perceive that ignoring these stakes may produce serious offline consequences (e.g., in terms of electoral support).
Andrea Ceron

8. Restoring Online Political Trust

Abstract
Chapter 8 introduces an index of online trust in political institutions, based on sentiment analysis, which has been continuously measured from 2012 to date. This index will be analyzed to establish whether the actions of policy-makers can affect online trust. Statistical analysis suggests that corruption scandals have negative effects, while policy reforms in line with the demands of citizens (such as the abolition of public funding of parties) can genuinely restore the level of online political trust. Conversely, different forms of engagement with SNS users and different forms of online voting display mixed and partially counterintuitive results.
Andrea Ceron

9. Social TV and Political Talk Shows: Empowering the Audience?

Abstract
Chapter 9 highlights how the practice of ‘social TV’ and the analysis of the SNS audience can represent an innovative source of information on the degree of media pluralism. In fact, by analyzing the SNS audience’s reaction to media content, we can shed light on how media content is perceived and digested by the audience. This can allow the building of a synthetic and multi-dimensional indicator of media pluralism, which can potentially empower the audience and the general public, provided that the opinions expressed online are taken into account by media and political institutions.
Andrea Ceron

10. Conclusion: A Sentiment Democracy?

Abstract
Chapter 10 discusses the idea of SNS as a virtual public sphere. It also investigates the relationship between survey polls and sentiment analysis of SNS, discussing whether one day politicians will potentially ‘govern with sentiment’ (i.e., following the views of SNS users), transforming our political systems into a ‘sentiment democracy’. The potential role of SNS in shaping the organization of political institutions, particularly political parties, is also discussed. The chapter suggests that in the near future SNS can provide a virtual space for intra-party interaction, which can foster a degree of transparency and accountability.
Andrea Ceron

Backmatter

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