Political Discussion in Italy between Mass Media and Ideology: Insights from the 2008 Election
27 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 15 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2010
This paper analyzes the role of political discussion during the 2008 election campaign with a special focus on how frequently Italians talk about politics, how important they consider political discussion by comparison with other channels of information, and how congruent their discussion networks are with their own political viewpoints. In particular, the paper will discuss the relationship between ideological self-placement and political discussion. Our findings point out that ideological alignments are significantly related to political discussion, and, more precisely, leftist and center-leftist leanings particularly encourage citizens to talk about politics. This can be explained by long-term structural factors, such as voters’ political socialization and a leftist voters’ greater predisposition for political participation. However, another possible line of explanation lies in the present outlook of the Italian political system. After Berlusconi took ‘the field’ and became leader of the centre-right, mass media have been increasingly perceived as biased and not trustworthy by leftist voters, who might have turned to interpersonal discussion as an alternative channel through which they can partially counterbalance a mass media landscape dominated by Berlusconi and the center-right. This may suggest that Italian center-left parties should try to advance progressive positions in those environments that emphasize political discussion either through traditional face-to-face communication or through the many interesting opportunities offered by the internet and new technologies.
Keywords: ideology, political discussion, Italian politics
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