Social Networks, Political Discussion and Voting in Italy: A Study of the 2006 Election

Cristian Vaccari, Gianfranco Pasquino, Donatella Campus

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This article analyzes the role of interpersonal discussion networks and television as the key mediators of political information that can potentially drive citizens' electoral choices. The research relies on survey data of Italian voters in the aftermath of the 2006 general election. Findings show that the partisan intensity of discussion networks significantly affects the vote, so that citizens embedded in homogeneous partisan networks are more influenced than those who discuss politics within heterogeneous networks that do not uniformly support a unified political position. The effects of television news programs and talk shows turn out to be comparatively smaller than those of interpersonal networks, but are still significant for those programs and formats that attract politically diverse audiences. We interpret this result as a consequence of the increasing relevance of selective exposure in the Italian electorate, which has largely been documented by previous research. Thus, while the effects of interpersonal discussion networks seem to depend on the degree of their partisan intensity, the impact of television seems to be enhanced, in the Italian context, by a program's ability to present itself as less openly biased than most of the competitors, thus failing to elicit selective exposure by viewers. The main implication of this study is that interpersonal communication has a remarkable influence on citizens' choices, and it should be studied together with mass communication, as they both constitute crucial components of voters' information environments, although their effects depend on partially different factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-444
Number of pages22
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number4
Early online date26 Nov 2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • political discussion
  • Italian politics
  • interpersonal communication
  • mass media effects

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