The European Union is an unprecedented unification project that successfully preserves political peace and integrates Europe’s countries into a supra-national model. However, recent economic and political crises have shown that there are institutional problems that have undermined the EU and lost the trust of many citizens. In Italy after the ‘political earthquake’ of the 2013 national elections, the party system suffered a further shock in 2018 with the consolidation of the centre-right and Five Star Movement as the main competing political actors. In this context, the relationship with the EU has undergone numerous tensions, impacting directly on Italian public opinion and its perception of European institutions. This paper investigates whether and how the ‘exit’ issue from the EU affects Italian citizens, particularly how they react to a UK-style hypothetical referendum on leaving the EU. By analysing a 2019 voter study, it tries to identify clusters of Italian citizens by their attitude to European policies and a possible EU referendum.
Panel 9.3 Covid-19, Populism and Conspiracy Theories: Dynamics and Challenges in Europe
Focusing on the recent Covid-19 pandemic, this panel aims to explore the conspiratorial positions in the European context. In the contemporary health crisis, fears and threats have become a fertile ground for new and old imaginaries of conspiracies. Moreover, recent studies show a strong relationship between conspiratorial beliefs and populist attitudes, above all, regarding seeing the people as victims at elites’ hands. Indeed, the rapid growth of populist political parties around Europe in the last decades has coincided with the simultaneously expanded spread of conspiracy theories, showing how populists apply them to promote their policies and support for their parties. Conspiracy represents a rising key role in the European political background. Such increase is also because the EU itself is often observed as a technocratic conspiracy. Most essential studies have focused on the relationship between conspiracy theories and misinformation, ideologies, populism and partisanship. Other research, however, has focused on relationships with individuals, such as the self-social image, social status, income, trust in politics, and biases against further or political alienation. Furthermore, other approaches have highlighted the direct and indirect consequences of conspiracy on institutional trust and political participation. More generally, this can produce an extremisation process within political contexts and high political polarisation, both as state and process eroding trust in the democratic system. In this context, Europe is described in a dystopian image and blamed for creating crises, such as refugee issues, Greek debt, Brexit or the Covid-19 pandemic. In the last years, political disciplines have increased attention worldwide on the relationship between populism and conspiracy, developing relevant empirical perspectives. Recent studies have improved methodological approach, basing most of the contemporary research on quantitative methodologies, such as analysis of opinion surveys or big data, but finding a new exciting application in the qualitative approach, such as interviews and participant observations. This panel explores new perspectives to improve general knowledge of populism and conspiracy into the recent health crisis. For this reason, European comparative and single-case studies anchored to solid methodological and theoretical perspectives are welcome.
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In 2018, Italy appeared set to embark on a new era of populist government led by the Five Star Movement and the League. Yet less than three years since the 2018 election, the country now finds itself with a technocratic Prime Minister in the shape of Mario Draghi. Marino De Luca writes on what this turn of events tells us about the fate of populism in Italian politics.
In this land, a word is often used in situations where a political class preserves a status quo while pretending to change it. Italians call it ‘leopardism’ after The Leopard, a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. It’s an illusion of change when everything stays the same. The result is a reinvention or rehabilitation process, like a ‘revolving door’ in the waiting room of the Italian political class.
In recent years, many scholars, mainly those focusing on populism, have analysed the role of ‘the people’ in politics. This has allowed us to understand how many political actors emphasize the central position of this term. Today, ‘the people’ has different meanings depending on how politicians use it in specific contexts. In this paper, the reference to ‘the people’ was measured using the following question: How do political leaders use the word ‘people’? The analysis was conducted on Twitter through the study of the accounts of the foremost political leaders in the UK during the 2019 general election campaign. The results highlight three key attitudes related to the use of ‘people’: a direct and immediate relationship between a leader and a wide people; a calling to a specific people, described as a strong and cohesive group; an appropriation of the voice of the people, grouping people without borders into the classic contraposition between a pure people and the corrupt elite [Read the full article here]
Book review / FMWEB: L. Morlino, Equality, Freedom, and Democracy: Europe After the Great Recession, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2020
The intense economic decline during the late 2000s, the Great Recession, is considered the most critical downturn since the 1929 Great Depression. Thus, this significant event has become the ‘critical’ context for explaining how the world as we know it has been affected in recent years. Financial markets, banking and real estate industries, on one side, with home mortgage foreclosures, life savings and unemployment on the other. Centre stage, our democracies and their values, amongst them the two critical and most important ones: equality and freedom.
Leonardo Morlino and the research group working with him for years – Daniela Piana, Mario Quaranta, Francesco Raniolo, Cecilia Emma Sottilotta and Claudius Wagemann -, analyse both values in this impressive comparative research, focusing on France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom.
From the starting position of a political outsider, Italy’s PM Giuseppe Contehas carved a widely positive image for himself, gaining widespread popularity during the Covid-19 crisis. Marino De Luca argues that Conte’s savvy use of communication channels during a time of national emergency, combined with his personality, have helped him project an image of political competence, empathy, and reassurance.
The 2019 UK election was touted by many as a contest between the parliament and the people. But who were ‘the people’ in question? The rise of populist politics in recent years across the world had bought ‘the’ people squarely into political discussion and as a resource to be called on by populist politicians. Looking at twitter in the context of the UK election we can see what was meant in this context.