«It’s the (local) economy, stupid!» Citizenship Income and Sociotropic consensus for the Five Stars Movement in Italy

Leo Azzollini, Delia Baldassarri

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Economic voting, the theory according to which voter behavior is heavily influenced by economic conditions, traditionally distinguishes between pocketbook and sociotropic voters: while the former are motivated by individual economic conditions, the latter react to the conditions of the broader economy. In this paper, we investigate the effects of the Citizenship Income (in Italian, Reddito di Cittadinanza, in short RdC), the Five Stars Movement (M5S)’s flagship social policy instrument introduced in 2019, on political support for the party. After nearly five years in government between 2018 and 2022, the M5S saw its electoral support plunge from 32.7% to 15.4%. However, this decline was not uniform, with the M5S gaining above 30% in several areas in Southern Italy, and obtaining the relative majority of votes (around 40%) in Campania. Several commentators argued that the relatively good performance of the M5S in Southern Italy was tied to the territorial diffusion of RdC. Does this economic voting narrative hold empirically? And, if so, is the support for the M5S driven by pocketbook motivations, or rather by sociotropic considerations regarding the benefits the RdC brings to the local economy? We rely on the Italian National Election Studies (ITANES) post-election survey, which included a specific module on the RdC, and match it with territorial socio-economic data (e.g., employment, poverty, population size) from INPS and ISTAT. We use Linear Probability Models, socio-demographic controls, and geographical Fixed Effects. We find that, irrespective of individual status, support for the M5S is larger in regions and provinces where there are more households with at least one RdC recipient. The relationship between being a RdC recipient (or cohabiting with one) and voting for the M5S holds, at the individual level, only in the absence of contextual controls, while it is otherwise statistically non-significant. We conclude that the electoral support for the M5S in Southern Italy was driven by sociotropic economic voting rather than own-pocket motivations, and that, in the aggregate, this phenomenon might have contributed to the geographic entrenchment of the M5S in Southern Italy.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)341-383
    Number of pages43
    JournalStato e Mercato
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Dec 2023

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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