Municipal elections 2016: La Stampa published the analysis by Alkemy Lab about the social involvement of candidates and citizens

Realized within the DEEP project and in collaboration with Catchy and Gianni Riotta, Alkemy Lab’s study analyzes candidates’ social popularity, their activity and citizens’ engagement in the municipal elections of Roma, Milano, Napoli and Torino on June 5

A day after the elections which involved big cities like Roma, Milano, Napoli and Torino analists and political scientists can finally sum up their reasonings and compare their previsions with reality.

This is also the task of Alkemy Lab that, a few weeks before the poll, chose to sudy the social networks Facebook and Twitter in order to analyze candidates’ popularity and citizens’ engagement in the different campaigns. The analysis, with the storytelling by Gianni Riotta, has been published on La Stampa the exact day of the elections, a few hour before the counting.

On one hand it was easy to predict the head to head between Sala e Parisi in Milano, on the other in Roma the results were in many way surprising. Virginia Raggi, who was not scarred from Renzi’s words which connect her strongly with Casaleggio, exceeds by ten points the ex radical Roberto Giachetti, who arrives at the second ballot slightly overcoming Giorgia Meloni. The candidate of Fratelli D’Italia, in fact, was lower in the polls but she had a big advantage on the social networks.

In Napoli the mayor De Magistris confirmed the lead, leaving behind the Forza Italia representative Gianni Lettieri: with him De Magistris will fight in the second ballot. Last but not least, also Torino’s second ballot was predictable from the social analysis: Piero Fassino won and met the 5 stelle Chiara Appendino. Everyone wonders if the prophecy of the mayor of Torino will come true. In fact, Piero Fassino said to the council member Appendino: “If one day you seat in this chair we will see if you will be capable of doing everything you say you will do”. A prophecy which is similar to the one he said to Beppe Grillo: “If you want to create a party, do it! Then we will see how many votes you will take”.

The analysis that Alkemy Lab focused on Facebook wanted to calculate the engagement produced by each candidate and each city a few days before the poll. Comparing the number of posts published by the candidates and the number of likes they obtained, Alkemy Lab creates an overview of the different campaigns.

As we can read in Equilibrio a Milano, Meloni attivissima a Roma: ecco chi si è mosso di più sui social network, the most popular campaign was the Roman one: Giorgia Meloni and Virginia Raggi won the prize of popularity. Meloni, in fact, considered her Facebook campaign very important, reaching a number of published posts higher than any other candidate. Also the former radical and “Rutelli boy” Roberto Giachetti got a high score, so to testify the strong engagement produced by the Roman campaign.

The second city in order of social debate was Milano with a head to head between the two managers Beppe Sala and Stefano Parisi. After them, there were the candidates of the other cities: Chiara Appendino in Torino and Gianni Lettieri in Napoli, who is close to the mayor Luigi De Magistris, despite the predictions.

It is interesting to note that the great amount of posts published by the candidates did not create necessarily a greater level of public engagement. In fact, lots of candidates were very active on Facebook and yet their posts did not receive large amounts of likes and comments from users. Using a cold and distant style, in fact, does not bring good results on the social networks. This is what happens to the politicians who report only the links to articles containing their interviewd. They indeed forget to present the main points of the interview and report a content that lends a little to likes and sharing from the supporters.

Others politicians, on the contrary, remembering their former experiences as manangers, knew exactly how to take advantage of social networks. The graduate from Bocconi Sala, for instance, summed up effectively his speech at the Festival of Energy, obtaining likes and sharings: “From the Festival of Energy three keywords emerge: geopolitics, innovation and sustainability”.

Also the former manager of Fastweb Stefano Parisi used Facebook in the right way, sharing less contents than his competitors but creating a great level of engagement. Parisi, in fact, tried to create a community with people on the social networkd, organizing moments of dialogue with users. Te experience of #matteorisponde seems to be contagious. “On Friday at 18:30 I will answer to you live in video from this Facebook page. I wait for the fourth round of Q/A with you. These are the best opportunities to let people participate to our campaign and our programme. We will see on Friday!”.

The study also consider the interactions among users and the posts on Facebook published by each candidate from May 23 to 29.

The analysis quantified the number of users whos liked at least one of the post published by the candidates in that period. Each one of the users was counted just once, independently from the amount of posts they liked, so to know the number of people who showed interest in the messages from the candidates. The pie chart describe how the amount of single users is divided among the candidates.

This analysis showed that the popularity of the candidates remained almost unchanged: Meloni, Sala and Appendino ruled in Roma, Milano and Torino.

The difference between Luigi De Magistris and Gianni Lettieri in Napoli increased, with the advantage of the first on the second one. The Forza Italia candidate has got a strong group of supporters who followed his Facebook campaign with continuity. It’s lower the number of single users who supported him.

What is the situation on Twitter? The analysis studied the amount of mentions and hashtag obtained by each candidate, to understand their popularity on the social network.

The Roman municipal elections remains at the top for number of discussions, Milano follows in order with Sala, Parisi and Corrado. Almost with the same amount of discussions, people talked about Torino and Napoli with Chiara Appendino and Gianni Lettieri, who are in the lead respectively over the other candidates for the same city. An interesting data is the different order in wich the Roman candidates appear. At the top on Twitter there is Alfio Marchini, followed by Stefano Fassina, who was readmitted at the elections at the last minute, and Roberto Giachetti. Giorgia Meloni and Virginia Raggi obtained a lower number of mentions and hastags, even though they ruled at the Facebook ranking. Alfio Marchini made paople talking about him a lot for his choice not to use his Ferrari around the city during the campaign and for his speeches on Tv. The last speech is on May 29, when he said to Roberto Giachetti and Giorgia Meloni at Domenica Live “You two, go to work!”. The former mayor of Torino, who is today fighting with Chiara Appendino, the last days before the poll talked a lot on Twitter about the administrative continuity and Renzi’s support. “I’m talking to you: @matteorenzi: Torino keeps growing, and it will do the same through the funds that we are obtaining from the Government #perAmorediTorino”.

Moreover, the Alkemy Lab team analyses the amount of comments and sharing on Facebook, comparing them with the average of retweets aroused from the posts published by each candidate. In this way, it’s possible to offer a more precise overview of the level of engagement aroused from the candidates.

Putting aside Giorgia Meloni, the candidates of the Movimento 5 stelle were the ones who appear the most popular on Faceook, testifying that it is a top down movement, born on the web and able to create great communities of sharing and support.

Furthermore, comparing Facebook and Twitter, the platform created by Mark Zuckerberg won, a data that is coherent with the nature of the social network. The network of Twitter, in fact, is characterized by pointing arrows, where it’s possible to have followers that we do not follow, Facebook is morphologically characterized by not pointing arrows: friendship on Facebook must be mutual. This aspect increases the polarization of points of view: we become friends with people who share our background and our interests and the Facebook algorithm shows to us only the world that we would like to see.

A feature that is exploited by the politicians who do not want to reach journalists and influencers, but their supporters and the mass of polarized citizens. The politicians who win on Facebook are, indeed, the ones who use messages that point to people sentyments and emotions and who want to change the estrablishment, becoming viral among their supporters.

Virginia Raggi and Giorgia Meloni won in Roma not by chance.

Giorgia Meloni wrote on Facebook: “Raggi accuses me every day of different things, I understand she did not have the patience to read my programme, and I’m ready to explain to her what I would like to do for the city if she has the courage to confront with me. I’m also avaliable to let her use the earphone to mantain a contact with Casaleggio”.

Also Matteo Renzi seems to understend the nature of Facebook when he decided to move on Zuckerberg’s platform the #matteorisponde that was popular on Twitter. To presuade people who are uncertain about the constitutional referendum, the Premier chose a more direct channel of communication, keeping on hand people in a way that is not possible in the elitarian world of Twitter.

Thrugh Alkemy Lab’s tools and the collaboration with Catchy and Gianni Riotta, it was possible to present a not obvious analysis about candidates’ popularity on the social networks and the level of public engagement: small data that, as we can understand from the results of the elctions, candidates and political scientists can no longer ignore.