Publications in international journals
Published in Comparative Political Studies (2022)
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. We posit that the local economy qualifies the role of social capital in forging systemic support. When the economy thrives, social capital buffers discontent via interpersonal interactions. When the economy declines it exacerbates discontent, leading to a diffusion of grievances. We test our “networks of grievances” hypothesis in two settings. We first test our theory 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 bringing non-mainstream parties into voters’ choice sets.
Published in Political Psychology (2024)
What happens to peoples' social-policy preferences when their expectations concerning collective behavior are met, or even exceeded? And what conversely occurs when these expectations are unmet, and trust is thereby breached? Drawing on the first Italian COVID-19 lockdown as a massive exercise in collective action, this study tests how information on lockdown-compliance rates causally affects the social-policy preferences of Italian voters, conditional on their pretreatment levels of trust. Examining social-policy preferences across multiple dimensions, we find that trust is most closely linked to attitudes towards transfer generosity, as opposed to preferences on policy universalism and conditionality. Results highlight that neutral, fact-based information on cooperation levels can affect social-policy preferences—and that the direction of attitude change depends on whether one's trust has been met or breached.
- From the Streets to the Voting Booth: the Electoral Effect of Grassroots Mobilization Against the Far-Right (Accepted at Public Opinion Quarterly) (with Fabrizio Bernardi, Elias Dinas, Alessandro Ferrara and Foteini-Maria Vassou)
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.
Are nostalgic authoritarian memories stigmatized? Far-right parties are increasingly successful in the EU, and some countries are even in a phase of democratic backsliding. While previous research would suggest that authoritarian experiences leave lasting marks of stigma, a warning against the authoritarian camp, we are witnessing the far-right parties succeed, even in democracies that experienced fascist rule. I address this puzzle by investigating the interaction between memory and politics, focusing on the (lack of) stigmatization of authoritarian nostalgia. I survey how Italians remember their fascist past, and whether memories favourable to the past dictatorship are stigmatized. Using an original survey and employing three different experimental strategies, I find that there is no stigmatization of authoritarian nostalgia. While doing that, I map Italy's views of its fascist past, measuring the memory of an authoritarian phase for the first time. The inability to stigmatize authoritarian nostalgia and the perceived divisiveness of the country's collective memory can help us understand how the success of far-right political actors was possible. The paper points out the importance of an inclusive democratic culture—and a shared collective memory—as a way of preventing a mainstreaming of nostalgic views of past authoritarian experiences.
selected Work in progress
- The Persistence of Authoritarian Nostalgia in Italy
The paper builds on the puzzling re-emergence of far-right parties in Italy, a country where the fascist experience is recent and violent. It tries to shed some light on this puzzling phenomena by looking at the phenomenon from an original perspective, focusing on the determinants and implications of authoritarian nostalgia. I collected new survey data to better understand how widespread authoritarian nostalgia is, to understand the main determinants, and whether it is a consequential phenomena.
- What is Unfair about Inequality? Dimensions of Economic Inequality and Fairness Perceptions
Previous research on attitudes towards inequalities and the demand for redistributive policies has produced conflicting results. Empirical evidence suggests that objective levels of inequality only influence attitudes when perceived as unfair. In this paper, I test how different types of information on economic inequality influence fairness perceptions. While previous research has viewed economic inequality as a unidimensional phenomenon, inequality is multidimensional in nature, as reflected in the wide range of existing measures. Building on existing inequality measures, I examine how information on different dimensions of inequality influences fairness perceptions. Using a well-powered, pre-registered conjoint experiment, I identify the main dimensions explored in previous literature, replicate treatments, and add new ones. I estimate how each inequality dimension influences fairness perceptions and explore how different social groups evaluate these dimensions, focusing on evaluations of inequality of resources vs. opportunity. Additionally, I examine whether a focus on equalizing opportunity makes inequality of resources more acceptable. I provide a set of information based on real-life distributions of different dimensions of inequality across US states to provide realistic inequality profiles. Overall, the findings contribute to a deeper understanding of how information on different inequality dimensions influences fairness perceptions and the demand for redistributive policies.
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.