Abstention and Populist Voting: Evidence from the Italian 2018 Election

103 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2022

See all articles by Lucia Dalla Pellegrina

Lucia Dalla Pellegrina

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca - Department of Economics, Management and Statistics (DEMS)

Giorgio Di Maio

University of Insubria - Department of Economics

Mario Gilli

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca - Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Economics, Psychology & Social Sciences (CISEPS); Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca - Department of Economics, Management and Statistics (DEMS)

Date Written: September 12, 2022

Abstract

This study aims to investigate the demographic, social, and economic drivers of rising abstention and populist electoral success in Italy in 2018. The Italian case is unique in the euro area because, in the political elections of 4 March 2018, two parties usually identified as left-wing and right-wing populists (Movimento 5 Stelle and Lega) obtained an absolute majority of valid votes. In reverse, the main established parties, the center-left Partito Democratico and the center-right Forza Italia, which have alternated in government since 1994, reached their minimum electoral consent. We study the Italian case at the level of the 110 Italian provinces (NUTS 3) by using a data set containing a wide set of demographic and socio-economic indicators, in addition to the results of the political elections in 2008, 2013, and 2018. We regress the results of the political elections of 2018, i.e., abstention and votes obtained by the main parties expressed as a share of citizens entitled to vote, on nine factors obtained by applying an exploratory factor analysis on 41 demographic and socio-economic variables. Results suggest that abstention is associated with the State’s failure in providing socio-economic development and security and in repressing organized crime. Moreover, socio-economic well-being is the main driver of voting behavior. In particular, the left-wing populist Movimento 5 Stelle has been successful in the more backward Italian provinces and the right-wing populist Lega in the more developed ones. These results indicate that in 2018 mainstream parties have fallen out of favor with both the most backward and the most advanced provinces, suggesting that the notion of populism should be qualified for an understanding of the observed varieties of non-mainstream parties and voting or abstention behavior.

Keywords: Populism, voting, abstention, electoral turnout, Italy

JEL Classification: D72, D78, H11, J68, P16

Suggested Citation

Dalla Pellegrina, Lucia and Di Maio, Giorgio and Gilli, Mario, Abstention and Populist Voting: Evidence from the Italian 2018 Election (September 12, 2022). University of Milan Bicocca Department of Economics, Management and Statistics Working Paper No. 503, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4216951

Lucia Dalla Pellegrina (Contact Author)

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca - Department of Economics, Management and Statistics (DEMS) ( email )

Piazza dell'Ateneo Nuovo, 1
Milan, 20126
Italy

Giorgio Di Maio

University of Insubria - Department of Economics ( email )

Via Monte Generoso 71
Varese, 21 100
Italy

Mario Gilli

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca - Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Economics, Psychology & Social Sciences (CISEPS) ( email )

Piazza dell'Ateneo Nuovo, 1
Milano, 20126
Italy

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca - Department of Economics, Management and Statistics (DEMS) ( email )

Piazza dell'Ateneo Nuovo, 1
Milan, 20126
Italy

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