New polling shows that populism is not the preserve of older voters
We’ve spent the last few weeks obsessing about the politics of English football fans. And by ‘we’, I mean those who clutch their pearls every time they see someone waving a flag — especially if that someone is a young, working class male.
Oddly though, they don’t seem so interested in the nationalism of other countries. Let’s pick an example entirely at random — say, Italy. Where do young Italians stand on issues of national identity and politics in general?
Italy, Tecnè poll
Age group: 18-21
Fieldwork: 8-9 July 2021
Sample size: 500
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) July 10, 2021
In first place, with a 23% share, is Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party. Second, on 22%, is another ‘national populist’ party — Matteo Salvini’s League party. That makes a combined youth vote of 45% for the hard Right.
There’s a further 6% for Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia — an ally of the Brothers and the League.
So far from inclining towards the liberal Left, as one might assume, Italy’s youth vote is in fact slightly more Right-wing than the population as a whole.
But just how far to the Right are we talking about? Well, it’s not all the way to outright fascism. Italy does have actual fascist parties, but their support is too small to show up in the polls. That said, Salvini’s party is a member of the ID (Identity and Democracy) group in the European Parliament. This puts them in the same category as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom.
Meloni’s party is in the somewhat more moderate ECR (Conservatives and Reformists) group, but it has a history that stretches back to the ‘post-fascist’ Italian Social Movement — which was founded by followers of Mussolini.
There are good reasons why Italians are so disillusioned with establishment politics. Italy has had the economic life sucked out it by its membership of the Eurozone — and it is young people who pay the heaviest price. When the glow of Sunday’s victory fades, Italy’s underlying problems will still be there — and so will Meloni and Salvini.
It’s worth bearing this in mind before buying into the narratives that (a) populism has peaked, (b) that Right-wing populism is the preserve of grouchy old people, and (c) there’s something peculiarly nationalistic about the English.
The first of these propositions cannot be taken for granted; the second depends on the country in question; and the third is demonstrably untrue.