Five Star Movement

Economic and Class Factors in the 2022 Italian Election

Historically, leftwing political parties and movements have championed the working class and, in turn, have received its support. But as cultural and social issues have increased in importance, this connection has weakened and now seems to be disappearing. In Europe, concerns about immigration and European integration have also pushed working-class voters from the political left to the right.

Such dynamics were clearly evident in the 2022 Italian election. As the graph posted above shows, the most left-leaning of the major Italian parties, the Greens and Left Alliance, found the bulk of its support in the higher income quintiles. The Democratic Party, the heart of the left coalition, did poorly with lower-income voters. Higher-income voters were much more inclined than low-income voters to support the pro-EU, centrist “Action/Viva Italia” alliance. The one left-leaning party to gain most of its support from the working class was the neo-populist Five Star Movement. But while the Five Star Movement supports economic redistribution and many other leftist policies, it is also hostile to immigration and suspicious of the European Union. As a result, it has sometimes been shunned by the other left-leaning parties.

Parties belonging to the victorious rightwing coalition received a significant amount of support from the working class. Giorgia Meloni’s right-populist (or national conservative, sometimes deemed post-fascist) Brothers of Italy did well across the income spectrum but appealed most strongly to those in the lower-middle income quintile. Surprisingly, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza, an establishment oriented, pro-business party, did best among those in the lowest quintile. Matteo Salvini’s populist and regionalist/federalist Lega party also had slightly higher support among lower-income voters.

Patterns of economic geography are less visible in the Italian election returns of 2022. As can be seen on the map of multi-member electoral constituencies posted above, the left-populist Five Star Movement received most of its support in the south, which is by far the poorest part of Italy. In northern Italy, however, no economic correlations are apparent. The three richest provinces of Italy, as assessed by per capita GDP in 2019 (see the map posted below), supported different parties. Bologna gave most its votes to the leftwing coalition, as it always does. Monza and Brianza, just north of Milan, supported the rightwing coalition, as it generally does. In the far north, the Autonomous Province of Bolzano (or South Tyrol) supported its own regionalist party, as it almost always does. South Tyrol is very distinctive from the rest of Italy, mostly because more than half of its people speak German as their first language.


Changing Italian Voting Patterns?

Italy 2013 election Monti Vote MapThe recently completed 2013 Italian General Election has been avidly discussed in the international media. The contest failed to produce a clear winning coalition in the senate, resulting in a hung parliament. It also saw the eclipse of the centrist, technocratic, austerity-oriented party of Prime Minister Mario Monti, which received only about 10 percent of the vote nationwide, as well as the strong return of Silvio Berlusconi, whose coalition barely missed taking a plurality of votes. Perhaps most striking was the strong third-place showing of the new Five Star Movement, led by comedian Beppe Grillo. Grillo’s party is left-populist in orientation, advocating environmentalism, direct democracy, and free access to the internet. It has also been described as mildly Eurosceptical.

taly 2013 election Five Star Vote MapThe Wikipedia page on the election includes a regional breakdown of the vote for the senate, which I have mapped. I was curious to see how this contest would compare with other Italian elections, which generally follow a very clear regional pattern; central Italy, especially Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, usually votes strongly for the left, while the north, Sicily, and much of the southern peninsula usually favor the right (see the map of the 2008 legislative election below).

taly 2013 election Right-Colition Vote MapThe maps of the recent election reveal few surprises. Monti did relatively well in the more prosperous Po Valley in the north, although even here he received only about 15 percent of the vote (Monti actually did the best among Italians living abroad). In contrast, the new Five Star Movement performed poorly among expats, and did not do particularly well in the economic core-zone of Lombardy, but across most of the country it received roughly 20-25 percent of the vote. The center-right (Berlusconi) coalition slipped a bit in the Po Valley, although it performed well in the Veneto region, and it did relatively well across most of the south, particularly in Campania, the region that includes Naples. The Common Good, a left-leaning coalition, not surprisingly, did very well in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna and relatively poorly in the Po Valley. It had its best showing, however, in the far northern autonomous region of taly 2013 election Left Coalition Vote MapTrentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, a mountainous, relatively lightly populated area that includes a significant German-speaking minority. Unlike most other parts of northern Italy, this region often votes for candidates of the left, although it also gives support to regionalist candidates. Significantly, Trentino-Alto Adige gave almost 14 percent of its votes to “other” parties, by far the highest figure among all Italian regions—with one notable exception. The exception is another northern, autonomous region, Aosta Valley (Valle d’Aosta). Here almost 70 percent of voters opted for none of the top four groups, with roughly half of them favoring two regionalist parties.

Italy 2008 election mapAosta Valley is a culturally distinctive part of Italy, as both French and Italian have official status, while 58 percent of the people speak the local Franco-Provençal dialect called Valdôtain, which is in many respects closer to French than to Italian. Two German dialects are also found in the region. Aosta’s birthrate is extremely low, even by Italian standards, but the region’s population is expanding, as outsiders move in to take jobs in the tourism industry. Such features are lItalyRegionsMapikely linked to its strongly regionalist voting patterns.