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Changing Images? Italian Twitter Discourse on China and the United States during the First Wave of COVID-19


Although public diplomacy and its influence on foreign public opinion have been central themes in recent research, the latter often lacks methodological diversity and does not consider how states create competing images. Our study offers a framework for understanding Italian public opinion using a triangulation approach that combines traditional public opinion surveys with advanced text analysis of social media content. We compare the representation of China and the United States in the Italian Twitter community during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our analysis shows that Italians who perceived China as a viable alternative to Western governments in public opinion surveys did so because they distrusted Western leaders and institutions.
Keywords: COVID-19; China; United States; public opinion; topic models