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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

From Five Stars to Ground - 
A Quantitative Content Analysis of Beppe Grillo’s Blogposts

Francesco Bailo
University of Sydney
Francesco Bailo
University of Sydney

The mobilisation of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement (M5S), from blog to squares to parliament, has been made possible by the Internet, and would not have been conceivable without it— intended as a low-cost and easily-accessible connective, communicative and organisational resource. Nevertheless with an electoral result of 25% in the 2013 general election, the reach of the M5S was clearly beyond the Internet and the core of early militants interested in the ‘five stars’ of public water, environment, transport, sustainable development and energy. The paper aims to describe, with data scraped from Grillo’s blog, the evolution of his online rhetoric and thematic choices between 2005 and 2015. Based on the analysis of frequency of terms pertaining to specific dictionaries, the paper measures the intensity of populist rhetoric in Grillo’s 9138 posts along with the attention dedicated to policy issues such as environment, economy, immigration and infrastructural works. The frequency of terms from the different dictionaries is then regressed against the attention of commenters generated by each post, the number of articles dedicated by the national newspapers to Grillo, the number of militants assembling offline through the social networking site and the number of voters as measured by electoral polls. Preliminary results indicate that Grillo’s significantly increased populist and antipolitical rhetoric over the years. Among the analysed issues, macro-economy received progressively more attention in blog posts while environment experienced an almost specular disaffection. Posts using more intensively the populist vocabulary attracted significantly more comments (up to 105 percent more) and more unique commenters (up to 145 percent more). Finally populist posts along with posts dealing with macroeconomy attracted recurrent commenters.
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