The meanings of party membership

published in Contemporary Italian Politics

crowdFor many years after World War Two, the mass party model dominated Italian politics. High rates of membership and activism were considered to be essential for optimising electoral performance, for optimising organisational resources, and for the legitimacy of the party itself.

However, since the 1970s, and in particular since 1989, party-membership linkages have begun to weaken. Taking its point of departure from the recent literature, this article offers a theoretical framework for the examination of three different meanings of membership, associated with changing models of party organisation. Data from national election surveys, and from qualitative research on party activists, support the proposed theoretical framework. The article focuses on three Italian parties – the Democratic Party, the Northern League and the Five-star Movement – discussing the similarities and differences, with implications for cross-national comparative studies.

Here the full article

The Five Star Movement: purely a matter of protest?

article on PARTY POLITICS (with D. Tuorto)

The success of the Italian party Five Star Movement (M5S) has been broadly attributed to its ability to occupy the space of radical protest against ‘‘old politics’’. Due to the party’s criticism, its charismatic leadership, and its aggressive electoral campaigns, the M5S has been labeled as a populist. The unexpected result of 2013 election raises crucial theoretical questions: To what extent does the M5S electorate reflect the characteristics of a protest vote? To what extent was it also a vote driven by values, by individual evaluations on a specific political issue?

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The first part of the article aims to investigate the extent of negative political feelings among M5S’ voters. To disentangle the meaning and impact of protest, we distinguish two dimensions: the ‘‘system discontent’’ and the ‘‘e´lite discontent,’’ referring to both general and focalized images, sentiments toward and the representation of political institutions, voter power, and government performances. In the second part, we bring to the analysis a further explanation based on the theory of issue voting. The goal is to measure whether voters have chosen M5S purely because of their political resentment or also given that they shared a similar position on a number of crucial policies emphasized in the electoral campaign (view the full paper).