The neo-fascist territorial legacy and the success of the Lega in the 2019 European elections: a multilevel approach
In Italy, the Lega obtained outstanding electoral success in the 2019 European elections, becoming the first party on the political spectrum. Previous literature has argued that this performance can be attributed to the leadership of Matteo Salvini, who transformed the Lega from an ethno-regionalist party into a national right-wing party (Passarelli and Tuorto, 2018). Previous research has also argued that the recent geographical trajectories of the party’s success might be associated with the prevalence of a neo-fascist minority during the First Republic (e.g. Mancosu, 2015). However, the empirical evidence comes from aggregate official results and focuses only on some specific Italian regions of the so-called ‘red-zone’. By employing multilevel models on survey data, this paper tests whether this expectation holds also at the individual level, and in a larger geographical area. The findings show that individual propensities to vote for the Lega in 2019 are associated with the percentage of votes obtained more than forty years ago by the Movimento Sociale Italiano in the municipality where the respondent lives, but only in central and southern Italian regions, in which the Lega was an irrelevant competitor before Salvini’s leadership. These findings provide additional evidence concerning the ideological drivers of preferences for the Lega.