Following the collapse of Italy’s governing coalition in January 2021, when Italia Viva leader Matteo Renzi withdrew his party’s support from the Government of Giuseppe Conte, former President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi was tasked with forming a new Government. His new ‘national unity government’ took office the following month, facing the need to tackle both the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.
The latest research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies in Italy shows that today, four months on, the public is largely split in its views on the current Government. Yet, pluralities across the political spectrum approve of Draghi’s overall job performance to date, indicating that his strategy of national unity may be working.
We find that the public is largely split in its views on Italy’s general direction overall: whereas 32% of respondents are optimistic about the general direction in which Italy is heading, 33% are pessimistic. A further 33% are neither optimistic nor pessimistic.
Despite this split in public opinion, we observe a positive trend overall. In February 2021, 48% of Italians were pessimistic about the general direction in which Italy was heading, while only 23% were optimistic, suggesting that optimism about Italy’s future is growing.
Young people in particular appear to adopt a positive view, with 39% of 18-to-24-year-olds saying they are optimistic about the general direction in which Italy is heading. Conversely, 26% of this age group say they are pessimistic.
When it comes to its views on the Italian Government, the public is also split. While 32% view the current Government as competent, a further 29% of respondents say it is incompetent, and 31% say it is neither competent nor incompetent. Respondents who voted for the Partito Democratico (44%) and Forza Italia (42%) in the 2018 Chamber of Deputies Election are the most likely to see the current Government as competent, whereas 2018 Lega voters (24%) are the least likely to view the current Government as competent.
In February, by contrast, when the current Government took office, 27% viewed the Government as competent, while 23% viewed it as incompetent. 28% said they viewed the Government neither as competent nor as incompetent. This increase in the proportion of respondents viewing the Government as either competent or incompetent, rather than adopting a neutral position, indicates that the past four months have allowed voters to form an opinion of the new Government.
A plurality of 47% approve of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s overall job performance since he became Prime Minister of Italy in February 2021. 35% neither approve nor disapprove, whereas just 14% disapprove. These results show that public opinion of Draghi has improved slightly during his first months in office. In February, 43% of Italians approved of his selection as Prime Minister, whereas 31% neither approved nor disapproved and 21% disapproved.
Again, we find that approval of Draghi’s overall job performance is highest among 2018 Partito Democratico voters (60%) and Forza Italia voters (59%). Interestingly, however, significant proportions of 2018 Movimento Cinque Stelle (47%) and Lega voters (45%) also approve of the Prime Minister’s overall job performance so far, indicating that as an independent politician, Draghi is able to mobilise support across the political spectrum for his ‘national unity government.’
Looking in more detail at voters’ views of a number of Italian politicians, we find that only current Prime Minister Mario Draghi and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are viewed favourably by a plurality of the Italian electorate.
Overall, 49% of Italians have a favourable view of Mario Draghi, compared to 31% who have neither a favourable nor unfavourable view and 17% who view him unfavourably. 61% of 2018 Partito Democratico voters have a favourable opinion of Mario Draghi, along with 66% of 2018 Forza Italia voters. 2018 Movimento Cinque Stelle voters are least likely to view Draghi favourably, although even among this group of respondents, 42% say they have a favourable view of the current Prime Minister.
At the same time, a greater proportion of respondents (59%) have a favourable view of former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 17% have neither a favourable nor unfavourable view of him, and 20% have an unfavourable view. 2018 voters of the Movimento Cinque Stelle (73%)—Conte’s current political party—and Partito Democratico voters (73%) are the most likely to have a favourable view of Giuseppe Conte, whereas Lega voters (47%) and Fratelli d’Italia voters (50%) are most likely to view him unfavourably.
Public opinion is significantly more critical of other political leaders in Italy. As such, a plurality of 41% have an unfavourable view of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Movimento Cinque Stelle leader Luigi di Maio—including 28% of respondents who voted for the Movimento Cinque Stelle in the 2018 Chamber of Deputies Election. Overall, 27% of Italians have a favourable view of Luigi di Maio, and 28% have neither a favourable nor an unfavourable view.
Similarly, almost half (48%) of respondents have an unfavourable view of former Deputy Prime Minister and Lega leader Matteo Salvini. 27% of respondents view him favourably, while 21% say they have neither a favourable nor an unfavourable view of Salvini. While an overwhelming majority (73%) of 2018 Lega voters have a favourable view of Salvini, the same can be said for only 11% of Partito Democratico voters.
Where former Prime Minister and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi is concerned, a plurality of 48% of respondents again have an unfavourable view, compared to 27% who view Berlusconi favourably and 21% who have neither a favourable nor an unfavourable view of the politician. Broken down by political affiliation, 60% of 2018 voters of his own party and 48% of 2018 Lega voters have a favourable view of Berlusconi, whereas much smaller proportions of Partito Democratico voters (14%) and Movimento Cinque Stelle voters (19%) view him favourably.
Lastly, 40% of Italians also have an unfavourable view of former Prime Minister and Partito Demacratico leader Enrico Letta. A fifth (20%) say they have a favourable view of him, whereas a third (32%) have neither a favourable nor an unfavourable view. Interestingly, just 39% of 2018 Partito Democratico voters say they have a favourable view of Letta. Meanwhile, 2018 Lega voters (65%) are the most likely to have an unfavourable view of the Partito Demacratico leader.
Overall, our research shows that while the Italian public is split in its views on the current Government in its entirety, significant proportions of respondents across the political spectrum approve of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s overall job performance since he took office in February. While Draghi certainly faces no easy task in handling the later stages of the coronavirus pandemic and addressing its economic aftermath, our data suggests that he will be able to count on the support of significant proportions of the Italian public while navigating these challenges.