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Luiss Guido Carli

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Luiss Open: Where do the winner's votes come from?

Professor Lorenzo De Sio analyzes the faithfulness of electorates in the European elections


There are numbers that are particularly important in understanding the evolution of Italian politics. The first, as we have already seen, are 1, 5, 2 and 3, or, by how much votes for the League have multiplied in the North, Center and South of Italy. But there are other numbers that are perhaps more important, that come from a deeper interpretation of the fluctuation in votes, or, estimates of changes in votes between different parties. We have already presented, like other institutes, various analyses of the changes in votes between the 2018 national elections and the 2019 European elections. Nevertheless, especially when there are so many numbers, to make a useful conclusion we must find a thread that allows us to summarize.

Regarding changes in votes, a relatively simple and parsimonious way to understand is to:

  • analyze the faithfulness of each party’s electorate, which is an important factor in evaluating their health, attractiveness and competitiveness
  • for the winners, analyze which parties lost the votes that the winners gained
  • for the losers, analyze where their votes went

Adopting these simple criteria allow us to efficiently summarize information.

Faithfulness: which parties retained their electorate?

The number of voters who gave their vote to the same party as in previous elections is an important indicator of a party’s health and attractiveness. Historically, in Italian national elections, there is an indicator that offers a clear distinction between the winners and the losers: the former tend to have a level of faithfulness of 75% while the latter rarely reach 60% (De Sio e Schadee 2018). This, therefore, becomes the first aspect to analyze: how faithful are the parties’ electorates in the various cities we have analyzed? We must be careful, however: European elections always have a lower turn out than national elections. Nevertheless, let’s look at the data: in this case from four cities.

Table 1 shows us something expected and something surprising. First of all, as expected, the League boasts high levels of faithfulness: 68% in Genoa, 70 in Turin, 78 in Padua, with a measly 46 in Naples. These numbers are similar to those of winners in a national election, and testimony to Salvini’s ability to mobilize his electorate on a large scale. At the same time, we can see the weakness of the Five Star Movement, which only managed to maintain 40% of its 2018 electors, and a similar situation for Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, with an even lower 30% of faithful voters. These parties appear to be in a real crisis, like LeU, whose electorate flocked to La Sinistra.

There are two unexpected factors: first of all, the Brothers of Italy, which – despite nearly doubling its electorate – only managed to keep a third of its 2018 electors, demonstrating strong turnover. More importantly however is the Democratic Party, which managed to retain 75 to 80% of its voters, typical of winning parties in national elections. This, on one hand, is testimony to the ability of Zingaretti’s party to mobilize its voters – but, also interesting – is their ability to maintain their numbers despite the fact that Zingaretti’s profile is so different from those of past leaders Renzi and Gentiloni. Consequently, these numbers could indicate a truly impressive performance for the Democratic Party.

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