SISP2021
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SISP Conference 2021

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Section 9 - Elections and voting behaviour (Elections and voting behaviour)

Managers: Antonella Seddone (antonella.seddone@unito.it), Fulvio Venturino (fventurino@unica.it)

Read Section abstract
Contemporary democracies are under stress. The legitimacy of political elites and of political institutions has been undermined by growing popular distrust and dissatisfaction, questioning the very principle of political representation. Although public opinion criticisms tend to target all elites and institutions, political parties are framed as the main culprit and are blamed for their inability to meet citizens’ demands. Thus, they are no longer recognized as mediators in the relationship between citizens and politics and as instruments of political participation.
Comparative research has highlighted the predominance of the party in central office, and even more in public office, at the expense of the party on the ground. Party dis-intermediation has opened up a ‘representation vacuum’, boosting up new political actors promoting populist and antiparty claims. Moreover, the direct involvement of citizens in the decision-making processes is vocally requested. New digital media have provided novel means for citizens to express their demands, offering spaces for direct and continuous interaction between leaders and citizens.
Political leaders have also taken advantage of such opportunities, overtly exploiting new media. Yet, by prioritizing personalization dynamics, these processes could become detrimental to the collective dimension of political parties, increasingly perceived as obsolete and ineffective organizations, lacking authority in front of supranational economic-financial forces. The role played by the European Union has often reinforced this view.
Parties struggle both to aggregate societal demands and to enact effective policies when in government, with profound implications for political support and responsiveness. It would be misleading to interpret these phenomena merely as transient consequences driven by the globalization. Instead, they should be read as the result of a long-term process, whose effects (and causes) are more systemic and structural than it would appear.
We are witnessing a decrease in traditional loyalties and a growing electoral volatility, which seems to prompt the de-institutionalization of the party systems. This not only means that electoral outcomes are increasingly unpredictable, but also that patterns of government are uncertain and unstable.
Against this background, this section addresses issues related to electoral behaviour and public opinion from different perspectives.


The relationship between citizens and politics:
* Issue and leader voting, considering (a) the role of short-term factors in the vote choices, in contrast to (b) long-term factors such as social ties and political allegiances.
* The role of social media, understood as (a) communication arenas for parties and leaders; (b) new environments for interaction and construction of citizens’ opinions; (c) new arenas for political participation.
* The populist movements/parties and the citizens’ populist attitudes, clarifying (a) the systemic conditions that favour the success of populism; (b) the individual determinants of the support for populist parties; (c) citizens’ support for populist issues and dynamics of issue ownership.
* Euroscepticism and the changing attitudes of public opinion towards Europe, discussing (a) the role played by EU in defining domestic agenda; (b) parties’ and leaders’ strategies; (c) citizens opinions; (b) dynamics of politicization.
* The role of opinion polls in defining (a) parties’ and leaders’ strategies; (b) citizens’ voting behaviour, taking into account problems affecting the detection of citizens’ opinions; (c) new methods and tools for investigating citizens’ opinions.


Electoral rules, election campaigns and elections
* Election management, meant as the set of actions and practices related to the organization of elections (included procedural and logistic aspects).
* The politics of electoral system, identifying (a) the strategic incentives determining intra-party and inter-party competitive dynamics; (b) the candidates’ strategies; (c) the implications for the results of elections.
* The election campaigns, considering (a) the role played by new and mainstream media; (b) the visibility and tonality of leaders in media coverage and its potential impact on voting behaviour and leader evaluations.
* Methods of candidates’ and leaders’ selection and their consequences (a) at party level (intra-party conflict, personalization); (b) at parliamentary level (parliamentary cohesion, responsiveness); (c) on representation (characteristics of selected elites and potential renewal).
* Beyond voting behaviour, understanding the determinants of abstention.
* Voting dynamics and results of the regional and local elections.
* Economic voting, including (a) government approval and the electoral cycle; (b) the effects of the economic crisis on citizens’ electoral choice; (c) economically motivated parties’ reward and punishment.


Party organizations and their changes
* Party disintermediation and the organizational changes boosting a direct relationship between leaders and voters.
* Ideological change, by investigating (a) the relevance of left and right categories; (b) populism as a (thin) ideology; (c) policy mood.
* Reform of parties’ public funding and its impact on their organizations.
* Party membership and its changes in term of (a) multispeed membership; (b) intra-party democracy; (c) participation and activism.
* Party elites and the renewal of the political class.
* Personalization of politics and its consequences for party politics.

The suggested lines of research are merely indicative. Alternative proposals are equally welcomed. Comparative as well as single-case studies are also welcome, emphasizing that all proposals must be anchored to solid methodological and theoretical perspectives. Papers can be submitted in English or Italian.

Thursday 9th September 2021
  Room M 09:00-10:45, 10:45-12:15
  Room Q 15:15-16:30
Friday 10th September 2021
  Room L 10:45-12:15
Saturday 11th September 2021
  Room P 09:00-10:45, 11:00-13:00

 

Panel 9.1 The Left behind: crisis and challenges of the Left in contemporary democracies (I)


Left-wing parties have been in decline almost everywhere in the western world in the last decade. Although the ebbs and tide of the electoral fortunes of left-wing parties have been often at the center of the stage in the academic debate, the time now seems to have come of a deep and structural crisis of the Left. The debate has thus revamped, spurring a renovated interest of political scientists who have been addressing the issue from a wide variety of viewpoints. Some scholars focused on demand-side explanations of the decline of the Left, pointing out how socio-economic transformations induced by de-industrialization and globalization have redefined both traditional social structures and voters’ identities in modern societies. Others have paid greater attention to the mutating strategies of political parties and their shifting from class-appealing positions towards issue positions which cross-cut the traditional class structure. Others instead have addressed the problem from the perspective of cleavage politics, insisting on the emergence of new societal and political cleavages displacing the traditional ones and redefining the space of political competition. Although these perspectives offer rich insights into the dynamics of the Left’s decline, they rarely communicate with one another.
This panel seeks to foster the academic debate on the electoral crisis of the Left, providing an intellectually stimulating environment to reflect extensively on its causes and political implications. The panel thus encourages original contributions focusing on the following (non-exclusive) list of topics related to the crisis and challenges of the Left in the XXI century:
1) The electoral fortunes of left-wing parties
2) The (demised or still resilient?) link between left-wing parties and class cleavage roots
3) The restructuration of the political space along new dimensions of competition and its implications for the Left
4) The transformation of the electoral base of left-wing parties
5) The ideological and programmatic positions of left-wing parties
6) Values and attitudes of left-wing voters
7) The transformation of left-wing parties’ organizational models beyond the mass party model
8) The decline of trade unions and collateral organizations
9) The legislative behavior of left-wing parties
10) The policy outcomes of the left in government

The panel encourages proposals addressing the challenges of the Left from a variety of scientific perspectives and employing different methodological tools, ranging from qualitative case studies or small-N analyses to large-N studies dealing with aggregate or individual-level quantitative data.
9.1 - The Left behind: crisis and challenges of the Left in contemporary democracies

Chairs: Davide Angelucci, Vincenzo Emanuele

Discussants: Davide Vittori

Class cleavage structuring in Western Europe: a sealed fate?
Vincenzo Emanuele
Abstract
Despite the huge amount of studies on cleavages, scholars have never elaborated a dynamic model to conceptualize and measure the stages of development of the class cleavage and specifically the stage corresponding to its full electoral structuring. To fill this gap, by combining some key electoral properties of the class cleavage, we build a model that returns, for each country in each election, the current stage of development of the class cleavage. We test this model in 20 Western European countries from the late 19th century to 2020. Results show that a structured class cleavage has characterized most of Western Europe’s electoral history. However, contrary to what expected, class cleavage structuring has not experienced an irreversible decline in the last decades. Moreover, class cleavage structuring is mainly driven by factors related to the electoral competition – a quite overlooked aspect so far – rather than by societal and institutional determinants.
Losing one’s home turf? Economic and cultural determinants of electoral change, and a possible radical-right wing capture of leftist economic issues
Davide Angelucci, Lorenzo De Sio
Abstract
According to many, a new transnational cleavage is increasingly structuring political conflict in Europe, leading to a clear predominance of cultural over economic aspects. In this paper we challenge this view, by arguing an enduring (if not prevailing) relevance of economic aspects, and a nontrivial interplay between issues and parties. We start by leveraging an innovative method for analysing issue determinants of individual-level vote change, which has already revealed an unexpected relevance of economic issues for the success of cultural demarcation parties. Using this method, we compare and contrast issue determinants of vote change across party families, showing – paradoxically – the relevance of economic issues for cultural demarcation parties, and – even for cultural issues – their higher relevance in economically marginal contexts, both in individual and in regional terms. If paralleled by a dominant relevance of cultural issues for traditional left-wing mainstream parties (which we test) this would suggest that the decline of the left in Europe might be due to the alienation of its traditional socio-economic base, due to increasingly relevant attention to (pro-integration) cultural issues in economically privileged contexts, to detriment of economic issues traditionally owned. We empirically test this argument by leveraging unprecedented issue-rich survey data collected in 2017/2018 by the ICCP (Issue Competition Comparative Project) in six European countries.
Networks of Grievances: Social Capital and Mainstream Party Decline
Francesco Colombo, Elias Dinas
Abstract
Why does support for mainstream parties decline? A growing literature points to economic loss as a source of political resentment. We bring the "left behind" literature one step further providing a novel mechanism linking perceived economic decline to anti-mainstream vote. Bringing in an additional contextual element as a moderator of economic effects, namely social capital, we propose a meso-level argument. By combining individual level experience and contextual information on local communities we bridge individual-level and contextual explenations of mainstream parties decline. When the local economy is doing poorly, individual networks will be dense of malaise. Individuals experiencing an economic loss will find confirmation to their discontent in other people's experiences and opinions. Doing so will facilitate the attribution of responsibility on established democratic institutions and the parties more blatantly representing them. Social capital will make such encounters both more frequent and more meaningful, leading dissatisfied individuals to update their priors about how limited or widespread anti-systemic political alternatives are, thereby enhancing a shift to outsiders. On the contrary, when the economy thrives, economic discontent will be more sporadic, leaving little room for social networks to fuel anti-systemic support and social capital will augment economic optimism via interpersonal interactions. We test our "networks of grievances" hypothesis in two settings. We first show how economic conditions shape the impact of social capital on non-mainstream vote in Italy, which offers individual-level information together with fine-grained municipality-level social capital data. Second, we test the mechanism underlying our theory combining survey and local administrative data across 18 European countries. The results suggest that "networks of grievances" operate as channels of political discussions with peers, converting retrospective evaluations into systemic discontent. Our findings carry important implications for our understanding of anti-mainstream vote as well as for our conceptualization of social capital.
 

Panel 9.1 The Left behind: crisis and challenges of the Left in contemporary democracies (II)


Left-wing parties have been in decline almost everywhere in the western world in the last decade. Although the ebbs and tide of the electoral fortunes of left-wing parties have been often at the center of the stage in the academic debate, the time now seems to have come of a deep and structural crisis of the Left. The debate has thus revamped, spurring a renovated interest of political scientists who have been addressing the issue from a wide variety of viewpoints. Some scholars focused on demand-side explanations of the decline of the Left, pointing out how socio-economic transformations induced by de-industrialization and globalization have redefined both traditional social structures and voters’ identities in modern societies. Others have paid greater attention to the mutating strategies of political parties and their shifting from class-appealing positions towards issue positions which cross-cut the traditional class structure. Others instead have addressed the problem from the perspective of cleavage politics, insisting on the emergence of new societal and political cleavages displacing the traditional ones and redefining the space of political competition. Although these perspectives offer rich insights into the dynamics of the Left’s decline, they rarely communicate with one another.
This panel seeks to foster the academic debate on the electoral crisis of the Left, providing an intellectually stimulating environment to reflect extensively on its causes and political implications. The panel thus encourages original contributions focusing on the following (non-exclusive) list of topics related to the crisis and challenges of the Left in the XXI century:
1) The electoral fortunes of left-wing parties
2) The (demised or still resilient?) link between left-wing parties and class cleavage roots
3) The restructuration of the political space along new dimensions of competition and its implications for the Left
4) The transformation of the electoral base of left-wing parties
5) The ideological and programmatic positions of left-wing parties
6) Values and attitudes of left-wing voters
7) The transformation of left-wing parties’ organizational models beyond the mass party model
8) The decline of trade unions and collateral organizations
9) The legislative behavior of left-wing parties
10) The policy outcomes of the left in government

The panel encourages proposals addressing the challenges of the Left from a variety of scientific perspectives and employing different methodological tools, ranging from qualitative case studies or small-N analyses to large-N studies dealing with aggregate or individual-level quantitative data.
9.1 - The Left behind: crisis and challenges of the Left in contemporary democracies

Chairs: Davide Angelucci, Vincenzo Emanuele

Discussants: Davide Vittori

Love interrupted? Left power and the pursuit of equality in Western Europe (1900-2020)
Federico Trastulli, Vincenzo Emanuele
Abstract
The pursuit of equality has always been a central concern of the left. Once in government, to fulfil the ideological commitments, left parties are expected to promote the reduction of inequalities. Most scholarly contributions – especially within Power Resource Theory – have found a positive effect of the power of the left on the reduction of inequalities in Western democracies. However, such previous studies suffer from a number of limitations, the most important ones being the often too rough measurement of the left power in government, the almost exclusive focus on economic inequality, and the limited temporal scope of the analyses. In order to address such concerns, the paper investigates the effect of left power in government on inequalities through a comparative-historical analysis based on 20 Western European democracies across more than a century. More specifically, we develop a refined index of governmental power that returns the power of the left in a given legislature more accurately compared to existing operationalizations. Moreover, rather than focusing exclusively on economic inequality, the paper also considers various indicators of political (i.e., access to power) and social (i.e., welfare state universalism, education and health) inequality. Lastly, the extended temporal scope of the paper (1900-2020) allows us to provide a better account of the historical evolution of the hypothesized relationship and whether it still holds to this date. Preliminary findings from our statistical analysis show that the left has historically contributed to the reduction of inequalities in Western Europe. However, most of this effect comes from the initial phase of left mobilization and access to power. After World War II, the capacity of the left to be a critical factor in the reduction of inequalities progressively decreases over time and becomes substantially irrelevant after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The paper discusses the implications of such findings and opens up new avenues for further research on this topic.
The intergenerational foundations of class voting
Giuseppe Ciccolini, Juho Härkönen
Abstract
The rise of radical right parties has led a major increase in the interest in the socioeconomic foundations of radical right support, both in the public debate as well as in political and social science research. Several accounts argue that radical right supporters are largely recruited from the working classes, a historical constituency of left parties. However, others emphasize the importance of the petty bourgeoisie and the lower middle classes as a source of radical right support. A central argument in many of these explanations points to losses—either actualized, foreseen or perceived—in socioeconomic position either across generations or over the life course as an important source of radical right support, and has linked the fall of the left and the rise of radical right parties to the end of wide intergenerational social ascent and the social and economic challenges associated with labour market precariousness, globalization and automatization. In this paper, we analyse the intergenerational class foundations of radical right support. We start from three observations. First, unlike emphasized in many popular accounts, analyses of the class bases of voting behaviour do not point to an unequivocally hierarchical (high vs low) class structuration of the probability of supporting the radical right rather than the left; indeed, many results point to high radical right support among the self-employed and parts of the middle class. Second, and relatedly, class schema that distinguish horizontal dimensions of class (such as the Oesch scheme) identify variation in radical right support between classes that are nominally at the same level. Third, findings of nominal—as opposed to purely hierarchical—class-based variation in radical right support question the appropriateness of approaches that emphasize downward mobility as a major driver of voting shifts. We use data from 19 countries from the European Social Survey together with the newly developed Mobility Contrast Model (MCM) to analyse how intergenerational class (im)mobility is related to voting choice. The MCM model allows a flexible estimation of social mobility effects without imposing constraints to identify (average) mobility effects, as is the case in the widely used Diagonal Reference Model. In this way, MCM is suited for detecting class origin, destination and (im)mobility specific sources of left voting and radical right voting, using nominal class schema that are theoretically more appealing and empirically more appropriate than purely hierarchical accounts of socioeconomic status. To measure both origin and destination class, we use Oesch’s class scheme that has been shown to predict electoral choice better than alternative schema. The objective of our analysis is to present the main intergenerational class foundations of voting dynamics, and we ask in which ways a certain voting choice stems from class origin, class destination, and from specific combination of the two.
The participation cleavage. A comparative study of increasing class-based participatory inequalities in Western Europe
Davide Angelucci
Abstract
Recent literature has documented a steady decline in voting turnout in many European countries. However, although declining turnout is a generalized and transversal phenomenon, it seems to be of higher concern for lower social strata of society, as the gap between lower and upper classes has increased considerably in the last decades. The aim of this article is to investigate the mechanisms that explain the growing class-based unequal turnout in Western Europe. In so doing, the paper considers two broad set of factors which can be responsible for increased inequalities: first, it studies whether and to what extent party strategies and party positions do affect unequal turnout; second, the impact of more general features of the party system is reviewed. Using data of the European Social Survey in 11 countries and over a period of 20 years, the study reveals that whereas party related variables are ineffective in explaining class-based unequal turnout, the characteristics of the party system are instead of paramount importance.
 

Panel 9.2 La selezione della leadership di partito: cause e conseguenze


L’indebolimento delle strutture organizzative dei partiti, l’esplosione dei mass media e, più recentemente, dei social media ha conferito alla leadership di partito un ruolo centrale. Il che, naturalmente, non significa che i leader non occupassero una posizione preminente anche nei tradizionali partiti di massa; tuttavia nei moderni partiti elettorali la leadership rappresenta (anche) un vero e proprio sostituto funzionale della struttura organizzativa.

In questo quadro ha iniziato ad assumere crescente rilevanza lo studio delle modalità attraverso le quali i partiti politici selezionano la propria leadership. In particolare, ciò è avvenuto nel momento in cui molte formazioni politiche hanno deciso di aprire le procedure interne di selezione, conferendo maggiore potere agli iscritti e, talvolta, anche ai simpatizzanti. In questo senso, studiare la selezione dei leader di partito significa indagare lo sviluppo dell’intraparty democracy (IPD). Si deve in ogni caso precisare che l’analisi delle cause e delle conseguenze della inclusività nella selezione della leadership costituisce una dimensione necessaria ma non sufficiente per lo studio della IDP.

Se i partiti sono “microsistemi politici”, allora la sola elezione diretta del leader (e dei candidati) potrebbe avere cause ed esiti opposti rispetto al nobile obiettivo della apertura e della (ri)connessione tra party in central office e party on the ground. Esattamente come accadrebbe in un sistema politico caratterizzato da una democrazia meramente elettorale, potrebbe verificarsi una ulteriore erosione delle strutture intermedie, generata da una crescente tendenza plebiscitaria. Si tratta di due esiti perfettamente plausibili, entrambi da verificare sul piano della ricerca empirica.

Il panel si pone l’obiettivo di raccogliere contributi di taglio empirico e teorico, con un focus specifico sul concreto funzionamento della selezione della leadership nei partiti, ponendo l’accento anche sulle cause e sulle conseguenze del passaggio da modalità selettive esclusive a procedure sempre più inclusive e aperte.

A titolo esemplificativo, ma non esaustivo, alcune tra le domande che dovrebbero guidare i contributi sono:

a) Date le numerose ipotesi proposte dalla letteratura circa le cause della crescente inclusività nella selezione dei candidati, quali sono quelle più rilevanti sotto il profilo empirico?
b) Esiste una relazione tra le modalità di selezione della leadership (più o meno inclusive) e la percezione del partito da parte della cittadinanza? In altre parole, l’inclusività ha rinnovato l’immagine dei partiti? Quali sono, sotto questo profilo, le affinità e le differenze tra i partiti in prospettiva comparata?
c) L’elezione diretta della leadership ha avuto effetti sul pluralismo interno ai partiti? Ne ha esacerbato o, viceversa, limitato il frazionismo?
d) Quali sono gli effetti della elezione diretta della leadership sulle strutture intermedie dei partiti?
9.2 - La selezione della leadership di partito: cause e conseguenze

Chairs: Stefano Rombi, Marco Valbruzzi

Discussants: Daniela Piccio

Democratization in hard times. Party leaders’ selections in Italy, 1948-2020
Fulvio Venturino
Abstract
Starting later in comparison with other European political systems, Italian political parties have begun to democratize the methods for selecting their leaders during the Seventies, and have en-larged these practices after the breakdown of Tangentopoli. The Italian case has progressively be-come extremely intriguing, because recently some parties have empowered ordinary people in addition to formal members by adopting open primaries. Moreover, since the end of World War II the Italian party system has steadily featured a great number of parties differently organized which make up a first-rate field of research. This paper takes in account the methods used by the Italian parties to select their leaders in the years 1948-2020. Using an extended database originally based on the Cospal (Comparative Study of Party Leaders) project and collected through a content analysis of the statutes, it aims to de-scribe the changes of the selectorates related to the spread of the internal party democracy. To give a realistic picture, the paper besides the main selectorates examines the mixed selectorates involving more than a party actor, the alternative selectorates to be used under time constrains, and the actual selectorates sometimes operating contrary to the statute.
La selezione dei candidati alla Presidenza regionale e la formazione degli esecutivi.
Domenico Fruncillo
Abstract
L’adozione delle primarie per la selezione dei candidati alle elezioni nazionali aveva stimolato l’attenzione di analisti e commentatori e aveva sollecitato l’interesse di molti studiosi e ricercatori. A molti era sembrato che esse fossero lo strumento più utile per corrispondere ad una duplice esigenza. Da un lato le primarie apparivano lo strumento più immediatamente disponibile per consentire ad elettori e simpatizzanti di prendere parte al processo di selezione dei candidati a cariche esecutive monocratiche e dall’altro esse si proponevano come strumento di ri-legittimazione dei partiti che, secondo diverse ricerche, erano percepiti da un numero crescente di cittadini come distanti e remoti dalla società. Progressivamente è stata frequentemente anche a livello locale e regionale l’adozione di modalità per la selezione dei candidati di maggiore apertura ed inclusione di iscritti e simpatizzanti. Nel contempo, gli studiosi hanno sviluppato riflessioni circa le conseguenze non previste – e probabilmente non desiderate – derivanti dalla relazione diretta tra i leader e il “popolo delle primarie”, con particolare riferimento al ruolo delle strutture intermedie tradizionali di partito e al corredo di incentivi specifici alla militanza. Nel paper che viene proposto l’attenzione si soffermerà sulle primarie e sulle consultazioni svoltesi a livello regionale per valutare se esse abbiano avuto delle conseguenze nelle dinamiche di selezione dei membri delle giunte regionali. Dopo la riforma del Titolo V, gli organi di governo delle Regioni hanno assunto una crescente rilevanza e le organizzazioni dei principali partiti hanno conferito maggiore autonomia a quel livello di organizzazione. Alcuni studiosi hanno segnalato dinamiche e pratiche che possono essere riferite al modello della stratarchia. Di fatto, in vista della competizione elettorale regionale alcuni partiti hanno definito le loro alleanze in autonomia, ossia a prescindere dallo schema nazionale, e hanno sperimentato modalità di consultazione degli iscritti e dei simpatizzanti per la individuazione dei candidati alla Presidenza della regione. In questo quadro generale caratterizzato da maggiore autonomia dei partiti regionali è possibile analizzare le conseguenze che le consultazioni primarie per la selezione dei candidati alla presidenza abbiano comportato in ordine alla maggiore competitività della coalizione, alla legittimazione e al rafforzamento del ruolo del candidato alla presidenza della regione, ma anche rispetto alla successiva individuazione dei componenti delle giunte regionali. Ci si propone di osservare se e in quale misura i partiti in quanto tali conservino il potere di nomina e controllino la distribuzione di incentivi selettivi ai militanti e ai gruppi dirigenti del partito stesso. L’attenzione sarà rivolta non tanto al processo, ma al suo esito. Saranno quindi analizzate le caratteristiche degli assessori regionali in ordine al loro cursus honorum politico, al loro inserimento e insediamento nella struttura del partito, alla loro partecipazione alle competizioni elettorali sotto il simbolo del partito. L’osservazione sarà limitata ad alcune regioni che saranno selezionate tenendo conto delle modalità più o meno aperte ed inclusive di selezione dei candidati, dell’area geopolitica e del colore politico dello schieramento che ha sostenuto il Presidente della Regione.
Party members, party leader and the method of selection. The case of the DP under the leadership of Enrico Letta
Stefano Rombi, Fabio Serricchio
Abstract
Within the Italian political system, the Democratic Party (DP) has used inclusive procedures for leadership selection more frequently than others parties. Since 2007, in fact, the largest party of the Italian center-left has guaranteed the participation of members and sympathizers in the choice of secretary. The only exceptions has been the transitional leaders – Franceschini, Epifani and Martina – and the secretariat led on an interim basis by the party president Matteo Orfini. In March 2021, following the resignation of Nicola Zingaretti – elected through the leadership primaries in 2019 – the National Assembly elected Enrico Letta. Letta is a leader far from transitional, called upon to relaunch the party's action both in terms of issues and in coalition strategies. The DP has therefore moved from the highest degree of inclusiveness in leadership selection to a rather exclusive selective, in which not even the party members were involved. This paper shows the results of a CAWI survey of party members. More specifically, in the wake of studies on the transformation of the party membership and its relationship with the leadership, it will be possible, among other things, to understand whether the abandonment of open primaries has changed the judgments on the party by the members, as well as on their perception of involvement in the party’s internal processes.
Le primarie del centrosinistra per Roma: convergenza o divergenza tra la corsa per il Campidoglio e quelle per i Municipi?
Alessandro Testa
Abstract
Dopo anni di scarso utilizzo, il Partito democratico, da poco guidato da Enrico Letta, sembra aver riscoperto le primarie come strumento per la selezione dei suoi candidati alle cariche pubbliche di vertice, almeno in ambito locale. In vista delle elezioni amministrative d’autunno, il PD sta infatti organizzando primarie di coalizione – aperta alle più diverse anime del centrosinistra “classico” – a Roma, Torino, Bologna e in altri comuni minori. In particolare, una forte valenza politica rivestono quelle della Capitale, dove chi vincerà si troverà a dover sfidare la sindaca del movimento cinque stelle, Raggi, e un esponente del centrodestra. Il candidato sindaco “ufficiale” del PD (favorite son) è l’ex ministro dell’Economia del governo Conte-bis, Gualtieri, esordiente alle primarie e privo di un’esperienza politica da amministratore locale. Competizioni interessanti si prospettano anche per aggiudicarsi la nomination a candidato presidente nei quindici Municipi in cui è divisa la città – diversi per territorio, popolazione e tradizione politica, antica e recente – dove il risultato potrebbe essere più incerto, anche per la possibile partecipazione di figure locali non allineate alle logiche correntizie del partito. Il paper intende presentare i risultati di una ricerca sul campo in forma di exit poll, che sarà effettuata sottoponendo a un campione ragionato di selettori un sondaggio relativo alle loro scelte di voto, alla propria autocollocazione sul continuum sinistra/destra, alle fonti di informazione preferite e ad altri indicatori utili a definirne il profilo politico. I dati raccolti saranno poi messi a confronto con l’ormai cospicuo corpus accumulato dallo standing group "Candidate and Leader Selection" nel corso dell’ultimo quindicennio [Pasquino e Venturino 2009, 2010 e 2014, De Luca e Fasano 2018, Rombi e Serricchio 2019]. Prendendo come riferimento la primaria principale per il Campidoglio, l’ipotesi di partenza è quella di una sostanziale convergenza con i dati raccolti in passato a Roma in occasione di competizioni nazionali e di una possibile divergenza – in particolare riguardo ad alcune issue maggiormente volatili come le fonti di informazione, l’autocollocazione politica e le scelte elettorali precedenti – nelle quindici “mini-primarie” per i presidenti di Municipio. L’ambito territoriale circoscritto e la concreta possibilità che alcuni candidati siano conosciuti personalmente da una quota considerevole di selettori potrebbero infatti – in maniera più cospicua di quanto non accada normalmente – favorire il conseguimento di uno degli obiettivi delle primarie [Pasquino 2009]: raggiungere una fascia di selettori non fidelizzati, eventualmente sostenitori abituali di altre forze politiche, con la possibilità di includerli, almeno temporaneamente, nella propria base sociale alle elezioni generali in caso di vittoria del loro candidato favorito.
L'istituzionalizzazione dell'instabilità: la selezione della leadership nel PD tra primarie e reggenza
Paolo Natale, Luciano M. Fasano
Abstract
Da quando nel 2007 il Partito Democratico ha previsto di eleggere il proprio Segretario nazionale attraverso le primarie, alla guida di quel partito si sono succeduti già otto leader politici, per metà eletti con quel meccanismo e per metà (i cosiddetti “reggenti”) con il voto da parte dell’Assemblea nazionale. Nonostante l’utilizzo delle primarie sia stato introdotto allo scopo di conferire maggiore legittimità e autorevolezza al leader del partito, le alterne vicende che hanno accompagnato le diverse segreterie che si sono succedute nel tempo alla guida del PD stanno chiaramente a testimoniare come tale meccanismo non abbia di fatto contribuito a rafforzare la leadership interna, se non in maniera contingente e limitata al solo periodo immediatamente successivo all’elezione. Anche se la celebrazione delle primarie rappresenta un importante momento di mobilitazione del partito, che spesso si associa a un aumento degli iscritti e un incremento del grado di attenzione da parte dell’opinione pubblica, dei mezzi di informazione e degli elettori. La stessa alternanza sistematica fra segretari selezionati attraverso le primarie ed eletti da parte dell’Assemblea nazionale, oltre a confermare la scarsa longevità che caratterizza quella carica, evidenzia una dinamica di selezione della leadership rispetto alla quale il ricorso alle primarie non può di per se considerarsi garanzia di stabilità. Del resto, l’intervallo temporale che, nell’esperienza di ciascun segretario PD, è solito separare il successo alle primarie dalle dimissioni in Assemblea nazionale si situa fra i due e quattro anni. A dimostrazione di quanto sia difficile permanere per lungo tempo alla guida di quel partito, anche a prescindere dalle caratteristiche personali dei diversi segretari, che ripropongono di fatto l’antinomia nelle procedure e nell’interpretazione dei modelli organizzativi tra “leadership” e “teaming”. Si pensi per esempio a Renzi, che grazie alla rielezione del 2017 è l’unico party leader del PD che può vantare una durata in carica complessivamente di cinque anni, ma che ciò nonostante è stato a sua volta costretto alle dimissioni dopo i primi quattro anni di mandato. Viene perciò da chiedersi in che misura l’instabilità della leadership nel PD possa essere associata a un tratto istituzionale di quel partito, ossia la selezione del party leader attraverso le elezioni primarie, oppure vada ricondotta a cambiamenti più strutturali e profondi in atto nella politica italiana, come la fedeltà leggera e la volatilità che contraddistinguono sempre più le vicende di partiti e leader politici. Scopo del nostro lavoro è quindi ricostruire la vicenda degli otto segretari nazionali che si sono succeduti alla guida del PD, da Veltroni a Letta, cercando di indagare le dinamiche che, dal punto di vista del tasso di popolarità personale, nonché dei consensi al partito, nei sondaggi così come nelle tornate elettorali (amministrative, politiche ed europee), ne hanno caratterizzato le rispettive fasi di leadership. Al fine di stabilire in che misura si tratti di un effetto attribuibile al modello organizzativo e alle caratteristiche istituzionali del partito, oppure a cambiamenti strutturali che stanno interessando il sistema politico italiano e, in particolare, il rapporto fra leader politici ed elettori, si esamineranno in chiave comparata anche le traiettorie di alcuni leader politici di altri partiti, oltre che dei capi di governo dal 2007 ad oggi, sempre prendendo in considerazione l’andamento del tasso di popolarità personale e i consensi registrati dal partito di riferimento nei sondaggi e nelle principali tornate elettorali.
 

Panel 9.4 Voters and parties during the Covid crisis


In a context already characterized by high levels of tension within established democracies, in which the legitimacy of the political elites and institutions has been questioned by growing levels of popular distrust and dissatisfaction, the year 2020 has represented the ultimate test for democratic political systems (and our ways to scientifically interpret it). In fact, the spread of the Covid pandemic has been an unprecedented and unique challenge to democratic political systems.
The panel is meant host a discussion among contributions addressing the effects on public opinion, voting behavior, and political parties brought about by the Covid pandemic. Thus, all section topics are included: namely, the relationship between citizens and politics, elections, and party organizations. The scientific purpose of the panel lies in selecting papers addressing the persistence of the explicative validity of classic theories in the new context (or proposing new theoretical frameworks to cope with it), through empirical tests employing data gathered during the Covid era, also relying on innovative methods and approaches.
Possible topics of interest are (namely, but not limited to) voter turnout and electoral behaviour in the Italian regional elections of September 2020, in the concurrent constitutional referendum, or in the municipal elections; the collapse of the Conte II cabinet and the instauration of the Draghi cabinet; the leadership crisis within the M5S and the PD; public opinion trends on the sanitary and economic management of the pandemic; public trust in political institutions and citizens’ evaluations of democracy; voters-parties-governments dynamics and (changing) political attitudes and values during the pandemic crisis.
As inferable from the aforementioned, indicative list of themes, the panel has a preferential focus on the dynamics of the Italian case. However, it also welcomes proposals dealing with comparative investigations or even investigating recent developments in foreign case-studies (e.g., the US 2020 presidential campaign and election, public opinion attitudes and general elections in other EU countries or in the whole of the EU).
Proposals (and then papers) can be submitted in both English and Italian.
°°°9.4 - Voters and parties during the Covid crisis

Chairs: Nicola Maggini, Aldo Paparo

Discussants: Marco Improta, Federico Trastulli

National and Local Effects in the Italian Regional Elections (2018-2020). Beyond Second-Order Election Expectations
Silvia Bolgherini, Selena Grimaldi, Paparo Aldo
Abstract
This paper investigates recent Italian regional election (2018-2020) by assessing if and to what extent regional elections present nationalized or localized features. The extreme volatility of national and regional elections posits problems in explaining changes in multilevel contemporary party systems. It also allows us to reconsider classical works on nationalization and territorialization of the vote and update some of their traditional assumptions and/or empirical expectations. We argue that Italian regional elections never perfectly stuck to the Second Order Elections' (SOE) expectations and often produced unclear or mixed results in this respect. As well, regional elections were never completely “localized,” especially in Ordinary Status Regions (OSRs). On the contrary, they often mirror the national climate in many aspects that are still captured by classical Reif and Schmitt's empirical expectations on statewide parties. Our contribution deploys in two parts. First, we descriptively measure and discuss to what extent high volatility rates are due to local (localness) or national factors (nationalness). We do so by separating and separately inspecting volatility produced either by different electoral supply across the national and the regional arenas or by the variations in vote shares received by parties in the two different arenas. Secondly, after theoretically reflecting on the expected scope of the SOE theory in these terms, the latter component of volatility is explored in order to adequately test Reif and Schmitt’s classic expectations. In short, we prove that, despite profound political change in party systems in Europe, recent Italian regional elections are still second-order elections, as they feature lower turnout, and drops for large and governing parties compared to legislative, first-order elections. Moreover, we show that, on top of the impact of national politics, regional and local peculiarities are nonetheless clearly visible; and, regardless of the recent extreme turbulence, they (mostly) follow classic historical trends and features.
The Covid pandemic enters the ballot box. The impact of the global health crisis on the Italians’ voting behavior
Danilo Serani
Abstract
What is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the voting behavior? The spread of the Coronavirus disease in 2020 represented in all the contemporary representative democracies an unprecedented disaster, which radically changed people’ everyday life and affected the economic, social, cultural and health domains. As a result of the extraordinary situation, challenger parties may electorally benefit from the Covid pandemic, as people are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, to stand against traditional medicine and to blame mainstream politics for the management of the health and the economic crisis. This argument will be tested in the Italian case, where the negative impact of the Covid disease has been especially harsh and it led to a severe political crisis that resulted into the formation of a new government in February 2021. By making use of an original three-waves panel data that has been fielded from May to December 2020, this article takes a closer look at the Italians’ voting intention. The results of a multinomial model show that those who are less likely to get the vaccination and who have a higher propension to believe in conspiracy theories about the Covid issue are more likely to desert mainstream parties and to turn into challenger parties. In a similar way, negative evaluation of the management of the economic situation and dissatisfaction with the functioning of democracy in Italy are also linked with a significant preference of challenger actors against their mainstream competitors.
The role of party preferences in explaining acceptance of restrictions on individual freedom and obedience to authority in a pandemic context: The Italian case
Riccardo Ladini, Nicola Maggini
Abstract
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, several governments adopted disease containment measures limiting individual freedom, especially freedom of movement. Nonetheless, citizens’ acceptance of emergency measures and obedience to authority is supposed to depend on various social, health, and political factors. In this latter respect, our contribution aims at studying the role of party preferences in explaining those attitudes during the pandemic. By focussing on Italy, the first western country to be hit by COVID-19 and to adopt restrictive measures, we analyse data coming from the ResPOnsE COVID-19 project. During the first wave of the pandemic (April 6 – July 8, 2020), a rolling-cross section survey was carried out by collecting CAWI interviews on independent daily samples of respondents coming from an opt-in online panel. The survey measures individual attitudes and behaviours concerning several COVID-19 related topics. The whole sample, which reproduces quotas of the Italian population for gender and area of residence, is made of more than 15,000 respondents. Our study initially investigates whether attitudes toward freedom restrictions and obedience to authority are associated with the dynamics of the pandemic, in terms of the number of contagions and changes in government policies on restrictions. For this purpose, we rely on LOWESS estimations of the daily means of the variables of interest. Then, we intend to test two competing hypotheses about the relationship between party preferences and those attitudes, and their dynamics over time, considering that the government in office during the first wave of the pandemic was supported by the Five Star Movement and centre-left parties. First, an ideological and cultural explanation suggests that conservative-authoritarian individuals would show a higher level of agreement toward freedom restrictions and obedience to authority. Second, a government-opposition explanation suggests that people supporting centre-right opposition parties would be less likely to accept freedom restrictions and to obey public authorities. As a further hypothesis, we expect that confidence in institutions moderates the relationship between party preferences and attitudes toward freedom restrictions and obedience to authority. We test these three hypotheses by employing multilevel regression models, where respondents are nested into the day of the interview. Preliminary results provide support to the government-opposition explanation and show that the gap in attitudes across individuals with different party preferences is substantially higher among people with low confidence in institutions. Finally, since a second wave of the ResPOnsE COVID-19 survey will be carried out from late March to July 2021 on both respondents participating in the first wave and fresh respondents, we aim at further testing the government-opposition hypothesis in light of the change in Italian government that occurred in February 2021, with the birth of a national unity cabinet led by Mario Draghi. By considering that two centre-right parties (Forza Italia and the Lega) moved from the opposition to the government, we intend to test whether in 2021 the attitudes of individuals supporting those parties tend to converge toward attitudes of people supporting other government parties.
 

Panel 9.5 Uncertain times, uncertain voters, uncertain outcomes (I)


Over the last decade, scholars have been discussing the rise of post-representative politics. The (alleged) crisis of representation and intermediate bodies, combined with the conditions characterizing the global scene, has made democratic outcomes increasingly uncertain. Uncertainty has become the standard framework in which citizens “live” and “act” politically. The covid-19 pandemic has even accelerated (and exacerbated) this process.

Studying elections in times of uncertainty means considering the impact on voters’ perspectives and electoral choice of the uncertainty factors that people experience in different areas of social life. It means identifying the elements of uncertainty that contribute to the final decision during the electoral campaign. It means examining the volatility of electoral results themselves. Finally, it means analyzing how all these dynamics affect the stability of political systems. These phenomena stimulate different areas of research, within which scholars can shed light on trends affecting the political realm: the effects of globalization and its consequences on turnout, voting behaviour and election results; the impact of economic and cultural dynamics on the voting choice; electoral volatility and political stability.

Studying democratic elections in the background of an already uncertain condition, typical of the globalized world, challenged by populist actors and the increasing spread of anti-political sentiments among citizens, constitutes a productive perspective that is made even more serious by the pandemic phase. This specific framework offers an observation point of special interest. This historical phase established democracies have been experiencing represents a useful analytical perspective for understanding the dynamics underway in the relationship between society and politics, and more precisely between voters and parties.

In order to discuss these topics, paper proposals which focus on the relationships between voters, electoral participation, voting choice in the wider frame of the era of uncertainty are very welcome. A comparative perspective or a multidisciplinary approach will be particularly appreciated; theoretical papers or empirical works, based on both qualitative/quantitative research methods, are welcome as well; at the same time, also single country or case studies will be considered.

Working language: Italian and/or English.
9.5 - Uncertain times, uncertain voters, uncertain outcomes

Chairs: Fabio Bordignon, Luigi Ceccarini, Fabio Turato

Discussants: Vincenzo Emanuele, Frederico Ferreira Da Silva, Bruno Marino, Marco Giuliani

Are we all in the same boat? Voting in critical times in Southern Europe
Marco Giuliani
Abstract
Looking back from the year 2021, the past decade seems to have been squeezed between two global crises: the Great Recession at its beginning, and the Covid-19 pandemic at its end. But it was not a peaceful decade either, with economic distress prolonging itself in Southern Europe more than elsewhere and contributing to the persistent state of uncertainty of the decade. During that period, there have been altogether 15 general elections in the four major South-European countries, some of them in short and interconnected sequences. The aim of the paper is to explore whether there were some common drivers of electoral behavior during those uncertain years. The reference theoretical framework is the theory of retrospective behavior, and the empirical analysis is based on an original dataset pooling subnational objective data in the four countries. The exploration of the common drivers focuses on the electoral consequences of the state of the economy, although I may also decide to focus also on the second most salient issue in those years, namely the level of immigration. There are several possibilities in regard to common or diverse electoral dynamics. The economic situation (or the presence of migrants) may trigger a similar reaction (punishment of the incumbents, abstentions or instead electoral mobilization) in all the countries/years; each of the political system/election may be characterized by different drivers and different electoral answers; countries may share the same electoral dynamics but with a different reference system (e.g. unemployment levels may affect the incumbent’s support everywhere, but what is considered to be a physiological or an unacceptable percentage of job seekers varies from country to country). This study can contribute to different streams of research. First, it can contribute to the theory of retrospective voting by confirming its finding in uncertain times, and using subnational units of observation. Second, it can help resolve the issue of benchmarking, which has recently been reconsidered because of some previous methodological weaknesses. Third, it can clarify the idea of ‘South-Europeanness’ by reflecting on what the electorates of the four countries share, and what they do not.
The state of the economy and the electoral performance of Eurosceptic parties
Marco Morini
Abstract
The 2010-19 decade has been considered as the decade of Euroscepticism. Started right after the shock caused by the Great Recession of 2007-08, this period has experienced the highest peak of anti-EU sentiments in member states (as expressed in the yearly Eurobarometer reports) and has culminated in the victory of the Brexit in the UK referendum in 2016. Furthermore, “dividing the EU” has seemed to be the common goal of several policymakers, in a constant intertwine with the concurrent and overlapping waves of populism. Many scholars worked on the determinants for Euroscepticism, finding evidence in support of the relation between negative economic conditions and declining trust in the EU. Less amount of research has been conducted on the relation between the economy and the actual vote performance of Eurosceptic parties. While, given the existing literature, one may have believed that it exists a significant correlation between negative economic indicators and votes for anti-EU parties, this research shows that there is no direct evidence. Reasons for Eurosceptic vote have to be searched elsewhere.
We have been left behind, haven't we? Relative economic status loss, class voting and the populist radical right
Giuseppe Ciccolini
Abstract
Researchers and policymakers tend to interpret the success of populist radical right (PRR) parties as a consequence of current economic transformations, which inevitably create winners and losers. Nonetheless, empirical evidence demonstrates that material deprivation is not a driver of PRR voting. This observation has led certain scholars to refute economic explanations in favour of cultural ones, while others are more cautious in this respect. The latter see PRR voting as the citizens' expression of resentment against their gradual marginalisation within society, presumably due to a deterioration of their relative economic position within society. Unfortunately, empirical evidence that PRR voters face a decrease in their relative economic status has been so far limited, although inquiries on voters' perceptions and on the political consequences of economic inequalities seem to point in that direction. This is likely because relative economic status loss and its implications for class politics have not been fully theorised and empirically tested, as extant research has chiefly focused on absolute income loss and individual-level disadvantage. The present research assesses the effect of relative economic status loss on voting behaviour by proceeding in two steps. We first review scholarly literature from various disciplines regarding the conceptualization of relative economic status, its political relevance when experienced as a class-level phenomenon, and discuss its implication for economic inequality research. Contrarily to material disadvantage per se, relative economic status loss represents a peculiar form of inequality framed as a zero-sum game and therefore lends itself well to PRR rhetoric. This discussion sets the basis for later constructing a novel measure of relative economic status which we term positional income. It measures the relative economic position of one class within the social hierarchy, by computing the ratio of its distance from the poor to its distance from the rich. Changes in positional income over time are informative of the dynamics of class relative economic status. In our empirical analysis, we test the relation between class relative economic status loss and PRR voting by combining individual-level electoral data from the European Social Survey (ESS) on 19 elections held between 2008 and 2017 across 9 European countries (Austria, Switzerland, Finland, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden) with relevant information on social classes' income dynamics from the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). We demonstrate that PRR parties are most successful among social classes facing a collective decrease in relative economic status. More specifically, our multilevel model shows that voters from social classes that have moved farther away from the affluent than from the poor feature higher chances of voting for PRR parties. On the one hand, in the case of a positive change in positional income, the probability of voting for a PRR party is around 12,5%, holding other variables constant. On the other hand, the probability decreases to circa 10% in the case of a negative change. Therefore, the difference in the probability of PRR voting between these two scenarios is equal to roughly 2,5 pp. The magnitude of this figure is nonnegligible if we consider that the proportion of supporters of populist far-right parties in our sample is 11%. This result is robust across several model specifications and to the inclusion of abstainers. Additional analysis reveals that ours findings are not driven by any specific electoral alternative, that is neither the left nor the center-right taken individually. Furthermore, our analysis does not confirm that the experience of material deprivation at the class level affects PRR voting, which is consistent with prior studies. To corroborate the internal validity of the phenomenon we observe, we check that our main independent variable significantly predicts subjective feelings of material deprivation too. Our research empirically corroborates the widespread (though previously unproved) statement that the inequality trends observed in post-industrial economies do foster (individual-level) disadvantage thereby creating a breeding ground for PRR support. Nonetheless, it also clarifies that such disadvantage has not a mere financial nature, as previous studies already suspected. On the contrary, PRR parties enjoy broader support among those classes suffering a downgrade of their economic standing. On the whole, our work lends support to previous warnings that status-driven resentment, not economic disadvantage per se, spurs PRR voting. At the same time, it also questions previous research refuting economic explanations of PRR voting. Hence, the present study advances two theoretical contributions. On the one hand, it expands the debate on the economic explanations of PRR support, especially with respect to the literature on class voting. It provides evidence that class alignment to PRR parties should not be interpreted solely as a cultural phenomenon. Shifting emphasis from financial loss per se to relative economic status decline allows revealing that economic motives are consequential for PRR voting. On the other, our study provides insight into the political consequences of economic inequalities. It does so by quantifying the extent to which specific social groups are losing ground in relative economic terms compared to the rest of society. Therefore, our study of class relative economic status goes in the direction of recent accounts about the relevance of widening within-countries economic gaps for electoral politics.
Going technocratic? Diluting governing responsibility after electoral change in Western Europe
Vincenzo Emanuele, Marco Improta, Bruno Marino, Luca Verzichelli
Abstract
Technocracy has recently triggered growing scholarly interest, especially as an alternative form of ruling to both party government and populism. In the context of weakened parties-citizens links and increasing external constraints faced by Western European ruling parties, technocratic appointments might help deal with the responsibility-responsiveness dilemma highlighted by Peter Mair. However, research on the explanatory factors of technocratic appointments is still underdeveloped. This article argues that the recourse to technocracy is fueled by electoral change. In contexts of high electoral turbulence – and even more when parties frequently enter or exit from the party system – ruling parties recur to technocratic appointments to dilute responsibility. We test our expectation through an original multilevel dataset on about 700 cabinets and 373 elections in 20 Western European countries from 1945 to 2021. Our findings contribute to the current debate on technocracy and shed new light on the general understanding behind political representation.
 

Panel 9.5 Uncertain times, uncertain voters, uncertain outcomes (II)


Over the last decade, scholars have been discussing the rise of post-representative politics. The (alleged) crisis of representation and intermediate bodies, combined with the conditions characterizing the global scene, has made democratic outcomes increasingly uncertain. Uncertainty has become the standard framework in which citizens “live” and “act” politically. The covid-19 pandemic has even accelerated (and exacerbated) this process.

Studying elections in times of uncertainty means considering the impact on voters’ perspectives and electoral choice of the uncertainty factors that people experience in different areas of social life. It means identifying the elements of uncertainty that contribute to the final decision during the electoral campaign. It means examining the volatility of electoral results themselves. Finally, it means analyzing how all these dynamics affect the stability of political systems. These phenomena stimulate different areas of research, within which scholars can shed light on trends affecting the political realm: the effects of globalization and its consequences on turnout, voting behaviour and election results; the impact of economic and cultural dynamics on the voting choice; electoral volatility and political stability.

Studying democratic elections in the background of an already uncertain condition, typical of the globalized world, challenged by populist actors and the increasing spread of anti-political sentiments among citizens, constitutes a productive perspective that is made even more serious by the pandemic phase. This specific framework offers an observation point of special interest. This historical phase established democracies have been experiencing represents a useful analytical perspective for understanding the dynamics underway in the relationship between society and politics, and more precisely between voters and parties.

In order to discuss these topics, paper proposals which focus on the relationships between voters, electoral participation, voting choice in the wider frame of the era of uncertainty are very welcome. A comparative perspective or a multidisciplinary approach will be particularly appreciated; theoretical papers or empirical works, based on both qualitative/quantitative research methods, are welcome as well; at the same time, also single country or case studies will be considered.

Working language: Italian and/or English.
9.5 - Uncertain times, uncertain voters, uncertain outcomes

Chairs: Fabio Bordignon, Luigi Ceccarini, Fabio Turato

Discussants: Diego Garzia, Marco Morini, Giuseppe Ciccolini

Political Messages and Salience: Let Them Eat Tweets!
Eugenio Levi, Giacomo Battiston, Federico Boffa, Steven Stillman
Abstract
Online communication affects parties’ ability to (i) communicate with potential voters in an unfiltered and direct way through Twitter and other social media and (ii) rapidly intervene on important news events that can shift opinions in the electorate. This has opened up a space for “distractive” strategies by political parties aiming at manipulating the salience of different policy issues and attracting voters (Hacker and Pierson, 2021). Online communication may also provide a novel instrument for parties to emphasise “own issues” and attract voters from other parties or affect turnout (Riker, 1993, Ansolabehere and Iyengar, 1994, Norris, 2000). In this paper, we study the determinants and consequences of political communication online by Italian parties, to shed light on these issues. Specifically, we explore parties’ ability to react to high-frequency news events relating to “owned” and not “owned” issues; we then analyse how this affects the political debate and voting behaviour. We propose an electoral competition model that aims at explaining a) how parties strategically use facts in their tweets, b) how parties’ tweets influence the salience of political cleavages—particularly openness to immigration and the economy—, c) how this ultimately influences voting. We then empirically test the model using data on news, salience and voting intentions from a variety of sources, including Twitter, news agencies, Google Trends, and IPSOS. We focus on populist parties (particularly Lega) and on the mainstream parties’ reaction (particularly PD). In our electoral competition theoretical framework, voters decide whether to vote, and, if they vote, which party to choose. Voters are interested in party policies on two dimensions—migration and the economy—and they are heterogeneous in their ideological preference over each issue. Further, the salience of the two dimensions influences their relative importance in the eyes of voters. Parties’ policies are fixed— each of the two parties may be closer to the median voter than the rival on one dimension, or the same party may be closer to the median than the rival on both dimensions, but with a differential relative advantage on one dimension—and their online communication increases the salience of the topic they engage with. News events occur and potentially shift the salience of their topic and voters’ preferences. By communicating on the issue for which they are closer to voters, parties act on their extensive margin for political support. However, by giving some attention to the alternative issue, they operate on the intensive margin, thereby potentially affecting turnout. The interplay of the incentives shapes the trade-offs. Depending on the party’s location, as well as on the correlation of voters’ preferences across the two dimensions, different equilibria can arise. Parties can specialize on separate issues, or they can compete on the same issues by communicating about both at the same time. Our empirical analysis benefits from a rich process of data collection. As far as we know of, we are the first ones to build up a dataset of policy-relevant exogenous facts. We use a variety of sources. Whenever possible, we rely on institutional sources: on the economy, we collect data on strikes from the Commissione di Garanzia Sciopero, macroeconomic announcements from ISTAT and deaths on the job from INAIL. When institutional sources are not available, we use scraping techniques on websites and when necessary we use machine-learning methods for extracting events from newswires. More specifically, for national job agreements we scraped down the Sole24Ore database and for firms’ crises we identified newswires from ANSA and the European Media Monitor based on a list of the firms that attended the “Tavoli di crisi” at the Ministry of Economic Development. For immigration events, we collected all newswires related to migration from the European Media Monitor and used a supervised machine learning approach to classify migration news between rescues by boat, trafficking events and crimes by immigrants. A clustering algorithm then permits us to identify the events from the newswires. We complement this data on news events with tweets by Lega and PD, with hourly Google searches from Google Trends, and with electoral survey data from IPSOS with intentions to vote, date of the interview, municipality and socio-demographic individual characteristics. Our empirical framework uses these data to test if populist parties use Twitter to manipulate the salience of economic vis-à-vis immigration issues, in order to maximize the appeal to voters. It then moves to consider non-populist parties’ reaction to populist parties’ political communication. Finally, it measures the effectiveness of political communication by populist and non-populist parties. Our approach involves at first a text analysis of tweets by Lega and PD. We collect data that allow us to provide descriptive statistics on the level of tweeting by populist and traditional parties. We find that Lega tweets much more than PD. PD tends to focus on issues it arguably “owns”—e.g. redistribution and welfare. Lega devotes high attention to migration while also discussing issues related to the economy. Second, using facts we examine when, how and how much Lega and PD tweet about a particular topic. In particular, using event-study techniques, we relate communication to politically relevant news events. We find that the occurrence of migration events increases Lega’s tweets and its focus on migration while events on the economy have a slight positive effect on PD’s tweeting. Overall, this suggests that parties use news events to push issues they own. Third, we investigate with hourly data if political statements on Twitter affects the salience of a topic and if this depends on the ideology framing of the statement. We show that Lega’s communication influences Google searches about migration and the economy, suggesting that the party’s communication has a role in manipulating the salience of political cleavages in the electorate. Fourth, we assess the impact of social media on electoral outcomes for Lega. Using a dataset of high-frequency polling of the Italian population, we construct descriptive evidence on the impact of communication and the occurrence of news. We employ a geographical RDD based on the availability of 4G in Italian municipalities, affecting the accessibility of political communication online, to exogenously vary the intensity in the exposure to party’s tweets on subjects in our sample. We find that Lega’s tweets about migration increase turnout while Lega’s tweets about the economy increase the share of votes for Lega. Overall, results suggest that political communication online helps party leverage news events to advance the salience of preferred issues. At the same time, they imply that online communication has an impact on both the intensive and the extensive margin of political support. Ansolabehere, S., & Iyengar, S. (1994). Riding the wave and claiming ownership over issues: The joint effects of advertising and news coverage in campaigns. Public Opinion Quarterly, 58(3), 335-357. Hacker, J. S., & Pierson, P. (2020). Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality. Liveright Publishing. Norris, P. (2000). A virtuous circle: Political communications in postindustrial societies. Cambridge University Press. Riker, W. H. (1993). Agenda formation. University of Michigan press.
The electoral consequences of transnationalism in the 2019 European elections
Francesco Visconti
Abstract
With the signing of the Maastricht Treaty and the 2004–2007 European Union (EU) Enlargement the level of cross-border mobility of EU citizens has significantly increased. Moreover, digital platforms have eased cross-border virtual interactions and cultural consumption. Consequently, transnationalism, i.e., direct, and indirect ties with peoples and cultures of other European countries, has expanded significantly across EU member states in the last decades. Previous works have shown how these physical and virtual cross-border interactions may foster not only the willingness to include and accept newcomers, but also (general and specific) support for the EU and identification with Europe. Against this backdrop, in this paper we move a step forward, by exploring the association between transnationalism and voting behaviour in European level elections. The paper argues that transnational experiences may reduce the perception of the EU as a distant and technocratic actor, as individuals feel part of a supranational community and are thus more prone to mobilise for EU elections than those who have none or poor cross-border experiences. We expect individual with transnational traits to vote more for pro-EU parties and to be less prone to vote for parties campaigning against the freedom of movement and EU integration. Hypotheses are tested by means of a comparative analysis on original survey data collected in ten EU member states (Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands) just after the 2019 European Parliament elections. The paper contributes to the literature on European elections, by expanding on previous analyses of transnationalism and political participation and providing the first evaluation of its electoral consequences. Second, it contributes to the literature on the structure of political competition across the EU by evaluating whether transnationals represent a relevant constituency for Euro-enthusiasts parties.
Negative partisanship, negative personalization and party choice in Western Europe, 1961-2018
Diego Garzia, Frederico Ferreira Da Silva
Abstract
Early literature repeatedly referred to the operation of potential negativity biases in voters’ choice. However, this claim has only very rarely been put to empirical test. Evidence of an impact of negative evaluations on voters’ choice is rather thin, and virtually unavailable for multi-party democracies outside the US. Against this background, this paper aims at providing a comparative assessment of the impact of negativity on vote choice. It departs from the intuition that an increasingly confrontational style of campaigning and political communication, and a more conflictual pattern of party competition in a context of strong political personalization, could all be leading the development of a distinctive form of “negative voting”, in the form of negative partisanship and negative personalization. Using data from an original dataset pooling 129 elections from 14 West European democracies between 1961-2018, we estimate the impact of negative attitudes toward parties and leaders on voting decisions, examine their longitudinal effects, and compare their relative weight compared to positive attitudes. The results suggest that negative attitudes towards political parties and their leaders have become an increasingly relevant predictor of vote choice. Furthermore, the results suggest the existence of asymmetric effects, whereby the negativity effects outweigh positive effects.
Ethnicity and Governing party support in Africa. A longitudinal and multilevel analysis
Carlos García Rivero, Enrique Clari Galán
Abstract
Historically, ethnicity has been considered to play a fundamental role in voting behavior in Africa. However, researchers on the issue have found contradictory conclusions. The most recent research concludes that the African voter is more rational than expected. Overall ethnicity seems to be less influential than theory used to suggest. Against this background, this paper analyses vote for governing party in Africa and presents evidence that the method and data set used will have an important influence upon the final result. The research takes the form of a quantitative analysis making extensive use of survey data from 2005 to 2019. We apply different methods and use different data sets and time-spam to conclude that 1) method and data used affect results significantly and 2) ethnicity, although not exclusively, is still an explanatory factor. At a glance, African vote is rationally ethnic.