Representation in hard times: party-voter distance on support for Social Europe in Italy
Political representation is a fundamental virtue of contemporary democracies. The policy preferences of politicians should converge to some extent with those of voters. In the last twenty years, and in particular in the aftermath of the multiple crises the European Union (EU) has recently experienced, the integration process has become an increasingly polarizing issue for both voters and political representatives. While the existing literature has investigated party-voter distance on diffuse support for the EU, this article focuses on preferences for EU-level policies aiming to strengthen European solidarity. We argue that although Italian voters and their political representatives tend to diverge on their general support for the EU, they are closer over their willingness to share the burden across EU mem-ber states of the multiple crises Italy has recently experienced. Employing original mass and elite survey data collected between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2018 in the framework of the REScEU project, our empirical findings show that both MPs and their voters strongly support European solidarity, though they also detect differences across parties. The most important implication of this study is that the mounting Euroscepticism of Italian voters is not an outright rejection of the EU but a call for the EU’s proactive role in protecting weaker countries and peoples.