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Diverging patterns of interaction around news on social media: insularity and partisanship during the 2018 Italian election campaign

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The paper considers how social media ecologies are affecting partisan engagement around political news and online attention economies by investigating the case of the 2018 Italian general election. By analyzing Twitter and Facebook interactions around political news in the lead-up to the election, we shed light on levels of insularity characterizing sources preferred by different partisan communities and investigate how specific patterns of active attention emerge around different sources and around stories proposing different framing of specific political actors. Our findings indicate that, on Twitter, sources mainly shared by supporters of populist parties (the Five Star Movement and the League) are characterized by higher levels of insularity compared to those shared by supporters of other parties. We also find that, on Facebook, news items published by highly insular sources receive a higher number of shares per comment. Finally, our analyses show that news presenting a positive framing of the Five Star Movement – the unique ‘cyber party’ in the system – receives a higher number of shares per comment compared to items presenting the Movement in a negative light, while the opposite is true for stories on all other political parties.
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Keywords: Italy; Social media; attention economy; election campaigns; ideological self-segregation; political news

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication Sciences, Humanities and International Studies, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Urbino, Italy 2: Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

Publication date: September 19, 2019

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