Psycho-social aspects of populist communication on Facebook. A first analysis of the reactions to the posts of Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini

Gabriele Di Cicco, Gilda Sensales

Abstract


The research explores the activity of the Facebook pages of Luigi Di Maio and
Matteo Salvini, leaders of the major populist forces in Italy, focusing on the
interactive aspect of the published posts. 4993 posts were taken from 02/24/2016
to 02/24/2019. Of these 2142 are by Di Maio and 2179 by Salvini. The posts were
classified in the "immigration" and "PD" categories, to describe the polarization of
the followers compared to two different outgroups. The variables considered are:
number of posts published per page, year, category; for each post: involvement
index (as sum of reactions, comments and shares), number of reactions divided by
three main indicators ("Love", "Angry", "Haha"). The results show, with few
exceptions, a general greater involvement and greater emotional reactions,
particularly high for anger, in Salvini's followers, compared to those of Di Maio; an
attitude of mockery, common to the followers of both leaders, towards the PD
political opponent and for Salvini also towards immigration; a convergence of
anger reactions, for the followers of both leaders, towards the posts inherent both
to the PD and to immigration.


Keywords


Populist communication; social media; angry populism; social identity; ingroup/outgroup differentiation.

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