On 26 January, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned after losing the support of coalition partner Italia Viva over how he planned to spend Italy’s pandemic recovery fund.
The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that a plurality (41%) of Italians say Giuseppe Conte met their expectations during his time as Prime Minister, with 21% saying he exceeded their expectations and 25% saying he fell short.
Although Conte is not a member of any political party, he headed a coalition of the centre-left Partito Democratico and the populist Movimento Cinque Stelle from June 2018 until his resignation. A majority (54%) of respondents who voted for Partito Democratico in the 2018 General Election said Conte met their expectations as Prime Minister and 48% of Movimento Cinque Stelle voters felt the same. By contrast, half (50%) of respondents who voted for the right-wing Lega party—which was not a member of Conte’s coalition—said Conte fell short of their expectations.
Following Conte’s resignation, President Sergio Mattarella invited Mario Draghi, who also does not belong to a political party, to form a new government. Draghi was sworn in as Prime Minister of Italy on 13 February. Overall, 44% of Italians think it is acceptable for Draghi to become Prime Minister without having won an election, whereas 47% think it is unacceptable.
Answers varied minimally with age, but considerably by 2018 General Election vote: 56% of Movimento Cinque Stelle voters and 54% of Lega voters said it is not acceptable for Draghi to become Prime Minister without first winning an election. Meanwhile, 67% of Partito Democratico voters say that it is acceptable. It is important to note that Draghi’s appointment as Prime Minister was done entirely within the legal framework of the Italian political system.
Although almost half of Italian respondents feel it was not acceptable that they did not have the opportunity to vote on their new Prime Minister, a plurality (43%) of Italians approve of Mario Draghi’s selection as Italy’s new Prime Minister. Meanwhile, 21% disapprove and 31% neither approve nor disapprove.
Once again, responses were fairly consistent among age groups but not 2018 voters: Draghi has the greatest approval from Partito Democratico voters, at 62%. Meanwhile, among Movimento Cinque Stelle voters, 31% approve and 31% disapprove of Draghi’s selection.
Draghi’s government has been described as a ‘national unity government’ due to its support from all major political parties, representing a departure from Conte’s previous coalition. But perhaps due to their similar technocratic and independent backgrounds, a considerable 43% of Italian respondents expect that Draghi will be a similar Prime Minister in comparison to Conte. Meanwhile, a quarter of Italians (25%) expect that Draghi will be a better Prime Minister than Conte, a conviction that is highest among 2018 Lega voters (40%), likely due to their new representation in the cabinet, which they did not have under Conte. On the other hand, 19% of Italians expect Draghi will be worse in comparison to Conte—including 32% of Movimento Cinque Stelle voters.
Those who voted for Movimento Cinque Stelle in 2018 consistently show lower levels of support for Draghi’s government in comparison to Conte’s government. This result is interesting, as Movimento Cinque Stelle has the largest representation of any party within Draghi’s cabinet, with four ministers, whereas Partito Democratico and Lega each have three. Still, this number of ministers represents a significant decrease in power for Movimento Cinque Stelle, which was a leading coalition partner under Conte and had nine ministers within his cabinet.
While Mario Draghi’s government currently enjoys widespread support, the continued challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic will be a colossal first test for the new leader. Coupled with what some might perceive as a lack of a democratically elected mandate, Draghi and other ministers of his national unity government will have much to contend with in their new positions at Italy’s helm.