Following two short-lived coalitions, Italy has been enjoying a period of political stability since the appointment of Mario Draghi as Prime Minister in February 2021. The latest research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies in Italy suggests that the Italian public largely appreciates this situation, as the plurality view of the new Prime Minister continues to be positive.
Mario Draghi currently enjoys a positive net approval rating of +25%. 47% of respondents approve of his overall job performance since he became Prime Minister, while 22% disapprove and 29% neither approve nor disapprove.
When comparing these results to a poll we conducted in Italy in June 2021, we find that the proportion of respondents approving of Draghi’s overall job performance thus far has remained stable. At the same time, however, disapproval has risen by eight points (up from 14% in June), and the proportion of respondents adopting a neutral view of Draghi’s overall job performance thus far has declined slightly (down six points from 35%).
This increase in overall disapproval appears to be driven primarily by the views of middle-aged and older respondents. Whereas disapproval among respondents 18-to-24 and 25-to-34, for instance, has increased by only three points (from 10% to 13% and from 15% to 18% respectively), it has increased from 17% to 24% among 35-to-44-year-olds, from 13% to 25% among 45-to-54-year-olds, and from 16% to 23% among respondents aged 55 and above. In terms of partisan affiliation, the rise in disapproval was most pronounced among 2018 voters of the Movimiento Cinque Stelle. Whereas 18% of this demographic disapproved of Draghi’s overall job performance in June, a notably higher proportion of 28% now do.
Overall, the Italian Government currently enjoys a positive net competency rating of +5%. While 34% of respondents think the current Government is competent, 29% think it is incompetent. A further 31% think it is neither competent nor incompetent. These figures mark a marginal improvement compared to June 2021, when 32% viewed the Government as competent, 29% viewed it as incompetent, and 31% viewed it as neither competent nor incompetent.
In terms of political affiliation, 2018 Partito Democratic voters (53%) are particularly likely to say they view the current Government as competent. Among this demographic, only 18% conversely view the Government as incompetent. Among voters of other political parties in the 2018 Chamber of Deputies elections, however, views are more evenly split. As such, 30% of 2018 Movimiento Cinque Stelle voters view the Government as competent, whereas 33% view it as incompetent. Similarly, 28% of 2018 Lega voters and 38% of 2018 Forza Italia voters think the Government is competent, while a respective 32% and 31% of these demographics think it is incompetent. As a technocrat without political affiliation, Draghi—who previously served as President of the European Central Bank—and his ‘national unity’ Government thus appear to divide opinions to a certain extent among voters of some of Italy’s main parties.
Despite the current Government’s overall positive net competency rating, Italians give mixed reviews when it comes to the Government’s performance in specific policy areas.
Firstly, there is clear satisfaction with the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as 51% of Italians approve of the Government’s performance in this policy area. 27% disapprove and 21% neither approve nor disapprove. These overall ratings for the Government are similar to ratings given to Prime Minister Draghi individually: 51% of Italians approve, 24% disapprove, and a further 24% neither approve nor disapprove of the Prime Minister’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
These favourable views may in part be motivated by the optimism Italian respondents display with regards to the timeline of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy, as more than half (51%) of those polled now think the worst of the pandemic is now behind them, compared to 28% who think the worst is yet to come and 22% who don’t know. These results mark a significant positive turn compared to June, when only 22% of Italians thought the worst was behind them and a large majority of 63% instead thought the worst was yet to come. At the time, 15% were unsure.
Other policy areas in which the Government enjoys favourable net approval ratings are cultural issues (+17%), healthcare (13%), and defence (+8%), as well as foreign policy (+3%), the economy (+2%), and the environment (+1%), though with a narrower margin.
With respect to other policy areas, however, there is less approval. The area in which Italians exhibit the greatest degree of disapproval is immigration. 24% approve and 45% disapprove of the Government’s performance in this respect, resulting in a negative net approval rating of -21%. Net approval is also negative with regards to the policy areas of public transportation (-18%), crime/policing (-13%), and housing (-11%).
With the Italian public neatly split between those who are optimistic (35%) and those who are pessimistic (35%) about the general direction in which Italy is heading, finding ways to more accurately address voters’ concerns in the policy areas where the Government currently receives negative net approval ratings may be a way of increasing optimism and satisfaction among the electorate overall.
For the time being, Italy enjoys a period of political stability with regards to its governing coalition, which is seen as competent by a plurality of voters. Prime Minister Draghi also continues to enjoy a significant positive net approval rating. With Draghi rumoured to be a potential candidate in the country’s next Presidential Election set to take place in February 2022, however, the days of his coalition could be numbered. The vote on who will replace incumbent President Sergio Mattarella—who has declined to seek another term—may therefore be a new political test for Italy.