Research

Work in progress

Why does support for mainstream parties decline? A growing literature points to economic loss as a source of political resentment. We bring this explanation one step further providing a novel mechanism linking economic decline to anti-mainstream vote. We posit that the local economy qualifies the role of social capital in forging systemic support. When the economy thrives, social capital augments economic optimism via interpersonal interactions. When the economy declines, however, social capital exacerbates discontent, leading to a diffusion of grievances within the community. 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.

  • The Persistence of Authoritarian Memory: Evidence from Italy

The projects builds on the puzzling and surprising persistence of a strong far-right support in Italy, a country where the fascist experience is recent and violent, looking at the phenomenon from an original perspective: by focusing on individual political memory. The paper tries to answer an empirical puzzle, the coexistence of positive and publicly held sentiments towards the fascist regime and strong support for democratic institutions. I combine survey and experimental data with archival and administrative sources to present and understand this puzzle. In the empirical part I dive deeper into the mechanisms of memory formation and the interaction between individuals, family and local communities in its transmission, to explain authoritarian memories.

  • Trust, Information and Welfare Policy Preferences in Pandemic Italy (with Ari Ray)

Pre-registration

The paper aims at assessing the effect of information concerning collective action (i.e. how communities behave as a collective in the midst of a crisis) on the social welfare preferences. We study the social policy preferences of Italians in the context of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis. We ran a survey experiment to investigate two main research questions: a) To what extent does information on collective action alter the social welfare attitudes of voters? and b) To what extent is this effect mediated by individual trust? We are interested in understanding what happens to the social welfare preferences of voters when their expectations concerning collective behaviour are met, or even exceeded; and what conversely occurs when these expectations are unmet, and their trust is thereby breached. To explore these questions, we design a survey directed to a representative sample of the Italian voting age population. We randomly assigned a subset of respondents to an information treatment, providing them real-world information on lockdown compliance rates during the peak of the first Italian COVID-19 lockdown (April 2020). Leveraging this (pre-registered) design, we can then examine the extent to which information on compliance rates affect the social policy preferences of voters, conditional on pre-treatment levels of displayed community trust. We examine voter attitudes toward a broad range of welfare policy dimensions, as our main outcomes of interest: these include social policy generosity, conditionality, and universalism, as well as tax financing and tax progressivity. Our focus is on social assistance benefits, policy designed specifically to support people who are unemployed and — for various reasons — unable to access unemployment benefits. Finally, we aim at performing several mechanism tests to ascertain whether the expected effect is driven by deservingness concerns, perceptions of quality of government and/or altruistic responses to the treatment.

Far-right scholars have focused extensively on the causes and consequences of far-right success, while not much attention has been directed towards what citizens and the civil society can do to tackle this phenomenon. Focusing on the surge of an anti-far-right social movement - the Sardine - during the 2020 Italian Regional Elections, we test whether grassroots mobilization is an effective tool to curb far-right parties’ electoral performance. Employing municipality-level data on electoral results, Sardine mobilization and far-right political events, we exploit a difference-in-differences design to identify the effect of local exposure to Sardine mobilization on the municipal electoral performance of far-right parties. The results suggest that local exposure to a Sardine event has a strong negative effect on far-right electoral results.


Publications

  • Colombo, F. & Leombruni, R. (2018). I sommersi e i salvati. Le maglie diseguali del welfare ai tempi della crisi. "Sociologia del lavoro", 150, 65-80.


  • Colombo, F. (2017). Labour market reforms and the academic debate in Italy: Between a discursive paradigm shift and institutional path dependence. "Autonomie locali e servizi sociali", 40(1), 183-197.