This contribution concerns the role of the Internet and of the (techno)social networks in the circulation of political-electoral information and in the processes of influencing political opinion during the Campaign for the 2006 general elections in Italy. The study has used a structured questionnaire completed online by 1990 Internetusers between the 10th march and 9th April 2006. By aiming to reach a specific profile of Internet users, the link to the questionnaire has been activated only on online newspapers and periodicals with different political orientation. In our research hypothesis, and relative operational definitions on the methodological level, we can identify four types of interviewed in the segment of Internet users we reached through the questionnaire: i) the Leaders (8,2% of the sample) who are influential towards the no-users thanks to the online information, but who are not engaged in political activities; ii) the Online Political Citizens Leaders (15,5%) who are online political activists and who have weaved a network of significant relationships with friends, colleagues and acquaintances, becoming for them a reference point on political themes. Their influence is exercised towards the political opinion of Internet users and no-users; iii) the Online Political Citizens Followers (23,2%) who are political activists engaged in online activities but who don’t exercise political influence; iv) the Peripherals (52,6%) who don’t carry out a very intense online political activity and who are not recognized in the role of political leaders. We have identified these four types of web users and described their profiles with the aim to i) surpass the over-simplified view of the political web users and ii) verify empirically the hypothesis of a more complex model of the flux of online political communication. The circulation of political information from the Internet develops, this is our suggestion, following the model of a multiple-steps flow of (political) communication. Thus, the characterization of the political opinion leaders, between the online newspapers and periodicals readers, during a political Campaign, is important on a theoretical level (by thinking a new perspective which doesn’t flatten out the critical exercise on interpretative models which are weaken by the complexity of the contemporary communication setting), but is also important for the communication action. The value of the political opinion leadership, held by the political web users during the electoral Campaign, requires the political communication professionals to address their online communication to some targets, the OPC Leaders and the Leaders, which are numerically narrow in comparison with television audiences, but are able to multiply information through a wide network of (techno)social relationships.
Leader d’opinione on-line nella campagna per le politiche 2006 / Antenore, Marzia; G., Fazzi; Iannelli, Laura. - (2007), pp. 175-190.