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POLITICS ON THE RADIO: ANALYSIS OF DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN EXPERTS AND CITIZENS. Lorenzo MONTALI, Francesco Paolo COLUCCI, Chiara COLOMBO, Elisabetta CAMUSSI Dipartimento di Psicologia Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca. The problem and the context.

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Politics on the radio analysis of discussions between experts and citizens l.jpg


Lorenzo MONTALI, Francesco Paolo COLUCCI,Chiara COLOMBO, Elisabetta CAMUSSI

Dipartimento di Psicologia

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca

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The problem and the context

Italy is undergoing profound change in terms of:

  • political reality

  • how people feel about politics

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Theoretical framework: common sense

Common sense as a:

  • Unifying concept in the political psychology

  • adopts at a higher theoretical level adjacent concepts

  • attributes to citizens the role of protagonists

    Common sense:

  • tends to evade any delimiting definition

  • is the way that all of us have of feeling and thinking about the reality

  • Is “polysemous” and “polymorphic” (Colucci, 1999), contradictory and “dilemmatic” (Billig, 1991)

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Description of the research

The radio programme Prima pagina:

  • from 7.15 to 8.30 a.m. on the national publicly funded radio

  • is broadcast by a different journalist or publicist

  • Two parts:

    • the broadcaster reads and comments on the main daily newspapers

    • he or she answers questions from citizens who phone in

      We analyzed:

  • the week preceding and following the election

  • Three different electoral sessions:

    • national elections for a new Parliament in 2001

    • local elections to mandate new local governments in 2003

    • European elections for MEPs in the European Parliament and local elections in 2004.

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Research Goal and Hypothesis

The main aim:

  • to analyze the common sense of politics as social representations

    The main hypothesis:

  • the difference between the common sense of citizens and the thought of experts does not consist in the fact that the latter is more simple, full of platitudes or subject to prejudices BUT

  • that it attaches greater importance to significant ‘real’ or concrete social problems.

  • although showing heuristics, biases and simplifications, common sense proves to be capable of criticism towards political communication coming from above, through mass-media.

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Analytical methods

Computer aided content analysis with the T-lab software (Lancia, 2004):

  • the distribution of words and the association between words in the statements of a specific corpus

  • A global and synthetic view of the textual corpus:

    • the main dimensions characterising the discourses of the experts/journalists and the radio listeners

    • the discourses that are common to all groups

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1. Key words analysis

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2. Elementary Contexts Analysis

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Cluster 1: the technically political discourse

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Cluster 1

Most technically political discourses:

The left pretends to have won. Ulivo conquers the province of Rome but they celebrate as if they conquered Italy. Polo triumphs in Sicily, it could conquer Sondrio and Brescia as well.” (expert, 2003)

A critical reflection about the centre-left coalition:

The centre left have not prepared the unitary and democratic management instruments yet for the coalition, nor modes through which to relate to the movements. Today it is a group of coalition theme tunes against Berlusconi, who when they have a better candidate than Polo, they are capable of dealing a hammer blow and win the province of Rome. (expert, 2003)

moving more towards the centre, or towards the left.

The journalist asks Bertinotti: the results in Rome and in Sicily favoured his party and also the DS, the Greens, and the Italian Communists but went against Margherita, it seems that the coalition is swinging to the left, does this please you, Bertinotti? (expert, 2003)

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Cluster 3: the polemics on justice

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Cluster 3

The legal inquiries on premier Berlusconi and his lawyer Previti:

On the first pages of the newspapers we find the SME trial. Yesterday in Milan public prosecutor Bocassini’s final speech began and, obviously, there is a big polemic about this topic. Yesterday has been the last day of political campaign and the accuses and polemics between centre-left and centre-right became strong and heavy. (expert, 2003)

Berlusconi considered this as aimed at damaging him politically:

Berlusconi fears that Previti might be found guilty in the SME trial, and he is sure that the judicial outcome of the possible sentence given to Previti would produce insupportable political repercussions for him. (expert, 2003)

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Cluster 6: the 2004 elections

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Cluster 6

The 2004 declining of Forza Italia and Berlusconi:

La Repubblica is more clear-cut: defeat for Berlusconi. Nevertheless it writes that the Prodi list does not get off the ground and that Forza Italia falls to 25%. (expert, 2004)

Comparisons with the results of other European countries:

In Germany Chancellor Schroeder falls from office, in France Chirac goes to rack and ruin, in Great Britain Blair reflects on whether or not to resign. Guzzanti writes this and there is a headline in the middle of the front page of the newspaper: the votes in Europe punish the premier. (expert, 2004)

The grows of anti-european parties:

And then I point out the heading dedicated to theEuro phobic if not anti European parties: in Europe humiliating for the governments, and then we read an interview by the philosopher Habermas who reigns blows on a Union which does not exist. (expert, 2004)

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Cluster 4: political and social problems

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Cluster 4

The social problems begin to emerge:

In my opinion the success of parties like AN and UDC within the centre-right shows the will of the electorate to support above all the commitment concerning the social presence of the state... (citizen, 2004)

The experts stress the more technical aspects of the politics:

The electorally hung parliament predicts a paralysis also because of the fragmented vote between parties and small parties. One can say that in the 2006 political elections the electoral system will be different and will force the scattered groups to ally themselves, but this is not the point considering what happened at the elections yesterday. (expert, 2004)

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Cluster 2: The Iraq war

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Cluster 2

The 2003 war , Bush and the role of the USA dominate:

Look, may god bless the United States but not Bush if he does not follow a different line in the relations with the world and with Iraq. (citizen, 2004)

Chiraq symbolises Europe against the war:

At the next G8 Bush and Chiraq, will be able to appear together smiling for the television cameras but after the bitter difference of opinion on the war in Iraq reconciliation between the White House and the Èlysée Palace will not be easy. (expert, 2003)

Call to noble values in politics in its ethical dimensions:

Why, because a small Pope stopped Attila, I think that a small Pope today has electorally more power to influence a large American electorate that in November could confer a September 11th on Bush. (citizen, 2004)

The UN as a barrier against the danger of Bush:

I’ve always listened to Rutelli say: the war in Iraq must be waged under the aegis of the UN, when Bush was still saying: we can go it alone. (citizen, 2004).

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Cluster 5: the citizens’ discourse

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Cluster 5

The reference to social problems:

I would like to know your opinion about a very current question: the reduction of taxes. I think that the problem is not to reduce the rates but to make the taxpayers appear. (citizen, 2004)

The noble dimensions of politics in relation to concrete problems and to legislative decisions:

To solve the problem of taxes is also a question of justice. (citizen, 2004)

I would like to intervene in the problem of Parliamentary impunity. The question I ask is this: a civil and democratic country as our dear and beautiful Italy, could it now be time that it makes precise and iron rules, so as to improve its own image, also in the European community? (citizen, 2003)

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The first two factor axes of Elementary Contexts Analysis.

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Regarding the comparison of citizens and experts:

  • Simplification processes do not seem to distinguish common sense from the experts’ knowledge of political events.

    • The “personalisation” process seems to be much more present in journalists’ and experts’ discourses than in citizens’ discourses

  • Media communicationpoints up political tactics, polemics, Berlusconi’s legal problems and their electoral consequences.

  • The citizens’ discourses:

    • seem to be far away from passively reflecting the experts’ discourses and mass media communication

    • point up more “real” social problems

    • the historical memory emerges

    • the strength of religion, ideals and pacifism emerge

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Conclusion: looking forward

Two main trends in discourses from citizens:

  • a universalistic and general vision of socio-political problems connected on a historical and international level.

  • attention is drawn to ‘private’, to individual and personal cases or to the point of view of group interests and limited categories.

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Key words association analysis

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