Psycho-social aspects of populist communication on Facebook. A first analysis of the reactions to the posts of Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini




Populist communication, social media, angry populism, social identity, ingroup/outgroup differentiation.


The research explores the activity of the Facebook pages of Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, leaders of the major populist forces in Italy, focusing on the interactive aspect of the published posts. 4993 posts were taken from 02/24/2016 to 02/24/2019. Of these 2142 are by Di Maio and 2179 by Salvini. The posts were classified in the "immigration" and "PD" categories, to describe the polarization of the followers compared to two different outgroups. The variables considered are: number of posts published per page, year, category; for each post: involvement index (as sum of reactions, comments and shares), number of reactions divided by three main indicators ("Love", "Angry", "Haha"). The results show, with few exceptions, a general greater involvement and greater emotional reactions, particularly high for anger, in Salvini's followers, compared to those of Di Maio; an attitude of mockery, common to the followers of both leaders, towards the PD political opponent and for Salvini also towards immigration; a convergence of anger reactions, for the followers of both leaders, towards the posts inherent both to the PD and to immigration.