The fightback against right-wing populists across the US and Europe has focussed on the value of young voters. But the reality is more complex—and shows the scale of the challenge aheadby Anita Riotta / September 3, 2018 / Leave a comment
“Migration is one reason. The economy is another.” It’s a quote that could be used to explain the election of Donald Trump, or the result of the EU referendum.
In fact, however, it referred to something else: the formation of Italy’s new government coalition.
The prevailing narrative has grouped these—and other—populist outbreaks as a singular, worrying, phenomenon. Popular themes have emerged in this discussion, not least the idea that older voters have opted for right-wing ideas at the expense of the young.
Yet in reality, young citizens in the United States and Italy have exactly opposite reactions to their governments. What’s more, their different responses reveal how the traditional narratives about populism risk being overly simplistic—allowing strains of social discontent that catalyze it to be improperly diagnosed, and continue to fester.
It’s certainly true that both parties in Italy’s new coalition, the Five Star (M5S) Movement and Lega Nord, have found success with the strategies that propelled Donald Trump into the White House.
The M5S, founded by a former comedian banned from Italian public television for back in 1986 for politically offensive jokes, Beppe Grillo, fashions itself an anti-establishment party. Lega, which formerly supported Silvio Berlusconi’s government, sparked the return of “Italy First!”.