Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

What Are Crises for? The Effects on Users’ Engagement in the 2022 Italian Election

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Abstract:  Crises were highly relevant in the 2022 Italian general election. The label of “crisis” was associated with multiple policy issues, ranging from the environment and health to foreign policy. Previous studies have extensively discussed the impact of crises on voter behavior, demonstrating that voters are particularly concerned with parties’ valence attributes, such as the effectiveness of policies and leaders’ ability to resolve emergencies. However, limited attention has been paid to assessing how parties mobilize the crisis paradigm on social media. This study seeks to bridge this gap by analyzing the impact of crisis-related content on Facebook user engagement, with a special focus on distinguishing the relative effectiveness of populist versus mainstream parties in deploying such narratives. Moreover, this research explores how the intertwining of crisis narratives with portrayals of party responsibility or irresponsibility influences the virality of social media posts. To answer these questions, we manually coded 4,827 election campaign posts to create an original dataset. The evidence shows that crises have an impact on boosting user engagement, although this effect seems to be limited to populist parties. The results also suggest that irresponsible claims cease to be rewarding during a crisis. This study contributes to a deeper understanding of the strategic use of crisis narratives by political parties on digital platforms and underscores the complex interplay between crisis communication and public engagement in the contemporary political landscape.

Keywords:  crisis; populism; responsibility; social media; valence issue

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.8111


© Andrea Ceron, Sara Berloto, Jessica Rosco. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.