Research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies last month indicated that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and opposition leader Matteo Salvini were suffering from a decline in approval ratings while the Regional Governor of Veneto, Luca Zaia, enjoyed widespread popularity. One month later, we found many of our findings have remained true in July.
First, Giuseppe Conte – who has benefited from increased support during the coronavirus crisis -– has continueds to see his popularity somewhat decline: while half (50%) of Italian voters have a positive view of Conte, a quarter (25%) hold a negative view.
To give some perspective on Conte’s popularity, we found, back in March, that roughly three quarters (76%) of respondents approved of the Prime Minister’s handling of the coronavirus and only 18% disapproved.
Of course, Giuseppe Conte’s popularity is much higher than that of many of his European counterparts – 43% of Spaniards and 41% of French disapprove of their leaders’ handling of the coronavirus crisis for instance – but Conte’s decline in popularity is indicative of mounting fears and pessimism amongst the Italian population.
Indeed, a majority (55%) of Italians think that another round of lockdowns is likely to happen in Italy in the coming months.
The public is split on whether the government is taking the right steps to deal with the recent rise in coronavirus cases. 45% of respondents think that the government’s actions are falling far short to deal with the rise in coronavirus cases. Meanwhile, 43% think that the government’s actions are adequate. In fact Italy’s 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100 000 is 5.4, among the lowest in Europe. By comparison, France’s rate stands at 17.74 per 100,000 residents. Italian respondents are clearly particularly anxious not to suffer a severe second wave.
It also these results come as relatives of victims of the coronavirus have asked prosecutors to investigate whether the government took the necessary steps in protecting the population at the outset of the pandemic. Their actions underline the scale of the tragedy faced by certain towns and regions in Italy, and perhaps hint at why the Italian public is still so cautious about any signs of a rise in cases.
Perhaps even more concerning for Italian voters is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy: a significant majority (63%) of Italians feel that the worst is yet to come in terms of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Those who voted for the League, Salvini’s opposition party, in the 2018 General elections are particularly worried with 72% of them fearing the damages induced by the crisis in the coming months.
A significant plurality (49%) is likewise pessimistic about the future of the economy in Italy, echoing our finding in June (47%).
In particular, a large majority (60%) of those living in the North East – one of the worst-hit regions by the virus and home to the country’s economic hub – feel pessimistic. There, the regional governor of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana, has become a particularly unpopular figure with 40% of respondents holding a negative view of him following his mismanagement of the crisis in the region. Only 21% of respondents have a positive view of the Lega Nord politician.
To respond to the impending economic crisis, the government has put forward a so-called “simplification plan” designed to bring Italy out of the crisis through infrastructure projects, notably by implementing digital procedures to approve new buildings. We found that a majority of respondents (51%) approved of the government’s plan, especially amongst Democratic Party voters.
It should be noted, however, that the country has gone through roughly ten simplification reforms since the 1990s, casting doubts on the plan’s ability to lift the country out of the crisis.
The unpopularity seen in our June poll of Matteo Salvini was confirmed as a clear plurality (47%) of respondents have a negative view of the leader of the League.
In particular, over half (52%) of respondents living in the north-eastern parts of the country, a long-time bastion of the League, said they viewed Salvini negatively.
By contrast, his League colleague Luca Zaia continues to enjoy relative popularity as 44% of respondents have a positive view of the governor of Veneto.
Overall, our research in July confirms many of the trends we we observed in June. If the population continues to feel pessimistic about the future, it could be bad news for both Conte and Salvini. Luca Zaia’s popularity rating should be the object of continued attention as many speculate that he could emerge as a challenger to Salvini’s leadership.