In light of the vast literature on populism, populist leaders and especially their communication, the general research aim underlying the present work is to explore elite actors, their behaviour on social media and their connection with populism, elitism and technocracy. Such research goals are addressed in this work in three autonomous sections, introduced by an overview of the literature on the concepts that are common to all chapters and concluded by a recapitulation chapter. The first chapter explores and updates the research on elite actors in Italy. Taking our cues from Carlo Carboni’s efforts in mapping and analysing elite members, we identify, by means of positional approach, 5246 people at the top of the main elite sectors commonly identified in political science: politics, public administration, armed forces, private businesses, mass media, academia and education and voluntary association. To these main sectors, we add those actors who are part of the religious and cultural elite (i.e. museums’ director) as established by the literature. Thus, compared to Carboni’s works, we identify the 2.000 core members of the elites, we underestimate the “second circle” of 6.000 of important, but not all-powerful, actors in the Italian society. We also collect socio-demographic information about these actors, including date and place of birth, gender, level of education, type of education, subject of specialization, position held and institution the actor works for. These allow us to test some confirmatory hypothesis that vastly confirm Carboni’s analysis. While elite actors become increasingly diverse in all sectors, with more women participating to the upper echelons of society, the political elite appears to be most heterogeneous also in terms of education and provenance. Conversely, we do find a greater representation of economic (20%) and hard sciences’ degree (around 15%), which goes in contradiction with some of Carboni’s arguments. In particular, linking several of the flaws of the élite class to their education: specialized in subject useful to maintain consensus (i.e. literature and law) but lacking the technical competence and knowledge to mobilize it towards innovation. The second chapter explores elite actors’ behaviour on social media. In particular, we choose to analyse Twitter for a number of reasons; first, by demographics, it appears to be the one most adopted by elite actors. Second, and more substantially, Twitter is one of the ‘most open’ social media platforms in terms of data collection. We compile an extensive database of elite actors on social media, with more than 1500 actors; by means of REST API (application programming interface), we collect ids, number of followers, network of following of each member. We test several hypotheses on both the propensity of activation, adoption and early adoption. Among the other findings, members of the political elite are more likely to both adopt and being active. Interestingly, however, members of the mass media elite seem to have embraced social media before. Second, we observe some variations in terms of the field of specialization; in particular, and as posited by the literature, those specialized in STEM subjects are less likely to adopt social media. On the other hand, we analyze the networks of following. By means of exponential random graph model (Ergm), we find significant levels of homophily within each elite. On the other hand, we test several hypotheses on the likelihood of being a central actor within the general and restricted networks. The third chapter explores elites’ attitudes in terms of populism, technocracy and techno- populism. Research has vastly detailed the existence of such dispositions within public opinion and traced several profiles of political leaders that have exploited such attitudes. However, there is still little research concerning if and how other actors in public life express and exploit such views. The scope of the last chapter is thus to explore whether technocratic, populist and technocratic-populist attitudes are present in elites’ members communication strategy and whether such attitudes are rewarded in terms of engagement. We hypothesise that both some socio-demographic characteristics (education, which type of elite they belong to) and external factors to influence the propensity to adopt such attitudes. On the other hand, we expect the adoption of such attitudes to be rewarding in terms of both engagement and positive engagement. In order to test our hypotheses, we collect 6.000 tweets from 1.575 members of different elites. We manually code them, relying on the well-established methodology of quantitative content analysis. Among the other results, we find few differences in how members of different elites rely on populist or technocratic rhetoric, and how positively they characterise either populism, technocracy or techno-populism. Likewise, the moment of crisis does not increase the appreciation for such attitudes. On the other hand, we find that the moment of crisis generates more engagement (retweets) but does not increase significantly more positive (likes) engagement. Finally, with some differences among different types of elites, adopting technocratic attitudes has a positive effect in terms of engagement, but a negative one in terms of positive engagement.

ELITES AND SOCIAL MEDIA. EXPLORATORY STUDY ON ELITES' BEHAVIOUR ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND TECHNOCRATIC, TECHNO-POPULIST AND POPULIST ATTITUDES / M. Bordignon ; tutor: G. Legnante ; direttore: M. Jessoula ; coordinatore: L. Papavero. - : . Università degli Studi di Milano, 2022 Jul 25. ((34. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2021.

ELITES AND SOCIAL MEDIA. EXPLORATORY STUDY ON ELITES' BEHAVIOUR ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND TECHNOCRATIC, TECHNO-POPULIST AND POPULIST ATTITUDES

M. Bordignon
2022-07-25

Abstract

In light of the vast literature on populism, populist leaders and especially their communication, the general research aim underlying the present work is to explore elite actors, their behaviour on social media and their connection with populism, elitism and technocracy. Such research goals are addressed in this work in three autonomous sections, introduced by an overview of the literature on the concepts that are common to all chapters and concluded by a recapitulation chapter. The first chapter explores and updates the research on elite actors in Italy. Taking our cues from Carlo Carboni’s efforts in mapping and analysing elite members, we identify, by means of positional approach, 5246 people at the top of the main elite sectors commonly identified in political science: politics, public administration, armed forces, private businesses, mass media, academia and education and voluntary association. To these main sectors, we add those actors who are part of the religious and cultural elite (i.e. museums’ director) as established by the literature. Thus, compared to Carboni’s works, we identify the 2.000 core members of the elites, we underestimate the “second circle” of 6.000 of important, but not all-powerful, actors in the Italian society. We also collect socio-demographic information about these actors, including date and place of birth, gender, level of education, type of education, subject of specialization, position held and institution the actor works for. These allow us to test some confirmatory hypothesis that vastly confirm Carboni’s analysis. While elite actors become increasingly diverse in all sectors, with more women participating to the upper echelons of society, the political elite appears to be most heterogeneous also in terms of education and provenance. Conversely, we do find a greater representation of economic (20%) and hard sciences’ degree (around 15%), which goes in contradiction with some of Carboni’s arguments. In particular, linking several of the flaws of the élite class to their education: specialized in subject useful to maintain consensus (i.e. literature and law) but lacking the technical competence and knowledge to mobilize it towards innovation. The second chapter explores elite actors’ behaviour on social media. In particular, we choose to analyse Twitter for a number of reasons; first, by demographics, it appears to be the one most adopted by elite actors. Second, and more substantially, Twitter is one of the ‘most open’ social media platforms in terms of data collection. We compile an extensive database of elite actors on social media, with more than 1500 actors; by means of REST API (application programming interface), we collect ids, number of followers, network of following of each member. We test several hypotheses on both the propensity of activation, adoption and early adoption. Among the other findings, members of the political elite are more likely to both adopt and being active. Interestingly, however, members of the mass media elite seem to have embraced social media before. Second, we observe some variations in terms of the field of specialization; in particular, and as posited by the literature, those specialized in STEM subjects are less likely to adopt social media. On the other hand, we analyze the networks of following. By means of exponential random graph model (Ergm), we find significant levels of homophily within each elite. On the other hand, we test several hypotheses on the likelihood of being a central actor within the general and restricted networks. The third chapter explores elites’ attitudes in terms of populism, technocracy and techno- populism. Research has vastly detailed the existence of such dispositions within public opinion and traced several profiles of political leaders that have exploited such attitudes. However, there is still little research concerning if and how other actors in public life express and exploit such views. The scope of the last chapter is thus to explore whether technocratic, populist and technocratic-populist attitudes are present in elites’ members communication strategy and whether such attitudes are rewarded in terms of engagement. We hypothesise that both some socio-demographic characteristics (education, which type of elite they belong to) and external factors to influence the propensity to adopt such attitudes. On the other hand, we expect the adoption of such attitudes to be rewarding in terms of both engagement and positive engagement. In order to test our hypotheses, we collect 6.000 tweets from 1.575 members of different elites. We manually code them, relying on the well-established methodology of quantitative content analysis. Among the other results, we find few differences in how members of different elites rely on populist or technocratic rhetoric, and how positively they characterise either populism, technocracy or techno-populism. Likewise, the moment of crisis does not increase the appreciation for such attitudes. On the other hand, we find that the moment of crisis generates more engagement (retweets) but does not increase significantly more positive (likes) engagement. Finally, with some differences among different types of elites, adopting technocratic attitudes has a positive effect in terms of engagement, but a negative one in terms of positive engagement.
LEGNANTE,
elites; social media; political communication
Settore SPS/04 - Scienza Politica
ELITES AND SOCIAL MEDIA. EXPLORATORY STUDY ON ELITES' BEHAVIOUR ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND TECHNOCRATIC, TECHNO-POPULIST AND POPULIST ATTITUDES / M. Bordignon ; tutor: G. Legnante ; direttore: M. Jessoula ; coordinatore: L. Papavero. - : . Università degli Studi di Milano, 2022 Jul 25. ((34. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2021.
Doctoral Thesis
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