The Impact of Economic Crisis on Turnout in Italy


This article deals with voter turnout and the economic crisis, and focuses on the results of the 2013 parliamentary elections in Italy. A consolidated tradition of studies has attested to the impact of a negative economic cycle, unemployment and various issues related to the economy, on the decision whether or not to vote, although the results remain controversial. Some scholars have asserted that, during a period of crisis, voters react positively, using their collective voice to demand more attention to their interests. Others argue that negative circumstances distance citizens from the electoral arena bringing a higher rate of abstention as a consequence. The peculiarity of the political situation in the period leading up to the 2013 election in Italy (the unexpected end of Berlusconi’s government in 2011, the period of transition under Monti’s technocratic government and the rise of the Five Star Movement [MoVimento Cinque Stelle, M5S] as a new competitor) strongly influenced voters’ evaluations of how political parties were going to compete and whether, or for whom, they would vote. Survey results show that discontented voters largely used abstention as a strategy to express their resentment, but that the most politically engaged preferred to choose a radical party (M5S), rather than refusing to vote.