Research

Publications in international journals

Why does support for mainstream parties decline? A growing literature points to economic loss as a source of political resentment. We bring this explanation one step further providing a novel mechanism linking economic decline to anti-mainstream vote. We posit that the local economy qualifies the role of social capital in forging systemic support. When the economy thrives, social capital augments economic optimism via interpersonal interactions. When the economy declines, however, social capital exacerbates discontent, leading to a diffusion of grievances within the community. We test our "networks of grievances" hypothesis in two settings. We first show how economic conditions shape the impact of social capital on non-mainstream vote in Italy, which offers individual-level information together with fine-grained municipality-level social capital data. Second, we test the mechanism underlying our theory combining survey and local administrative data across 18 European countries. The results suggest that ``networks of grievances'' operate as channels of political discussions with peers, converting retrospective evaluations into systemic discontent. Our findings carry important implications for our understanding of anti-mainstream vote as well as for our conceptualization of social capital.

Work in progress

  • The Persistence of Authoritarian Memory: Evidence from Italy

The projects builds on the puzzling and surprising persistence of a strong far-right support in Italy, a country where the fascist experience is recent and violent, looking at the phenomenon from an original perspective: by focusing on individual political memory. The paper tries to answer an empirical puzzle, the coexistence of positive and publicly held sentiments towards the fascist regime and strong support for democratic institutions. I combine survey and experimental data with archival and administrative sources to present and understand this puzzle. In the empirical part I dive deeper into the mechanisms of memory formation and the interaction between individuals, family and local communities in its transmission, to explain authoritarian memories.

This paper examines how information on collective action affects the social policy preferences of voters, in context of the COVID-19 crisis. What happens to the social policy preferences of voters when their expectations concerning collective behavior are met, or exceeded? And what conversely occurs when these expectations are unmet, and their trust is thereby breached? Leveraging a quasi-experimental survey directed to a representative sample of Italian voters, this paper examines the extent to which information on lockdown compliance rates affects voter social policy preferences, conditional on their pre-treatment levels of displayed trust. In examining voter attitudes towards distinct social policy dimensions, we find that trust is most closely linked to attitudes on social policy generosity, as opposed to universalism and conditionality. Moreover, we find the effect of trust to be moderated primarily by material concerns of voters, where direct beneficiaries of social transfers are less affected by our trust treatment.

Far-right scholars have focused extensively on the causes and consequences of far-right success, while not much attention has been directed towards what citizens and the civil society can do to tackle this phenomenon. Focusing on the surge of an anti-far-right social movement - the Sardine - during the 2020 Italian Regional Elections, we test whether grassroots mobilization is an effective tool to curb far-right parties’ electoral performance. Employing municipality-level data on electoral results, Sardine mobilization and far-right political events, we exploit a difference-in-differences design to identify the effect of local exposure to Sardine mobilization on the municipal electoral performance of far-right parties. The results suggest that local exposure to a Sardine event has a strong negative effect on far-right electoral results.

Publications in Italian journals

  • Colombo, F. & Leombruni, R. (2018). I sommersi e i salvati. Le maglie diseguali del welfare ai tempi della crisi. "Sociologia del lavoro", 150, 65-80.


  • Colombo, F. (2017). Labour market reforms and the academic debate in Italy: Between a discursive paradigm shift and institutional path dependence. "Autonomie locali e servizi sociali", 40(1), 183-197.