On 4 December, Italians will vote in a referendum on the most far-reaching constitutional reform since the birth of the Italian Republic. From the very beginning, the country’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has linked the fate of his government to approval of the reform, promising to resign should the proposal be rejected. In doing so, he has shifted the meaning of the referendum away from simply constitutional reform, and toward a verdict on his personality instead.
Although this ‘personalisation’ strategy seemed effective when Renzi’s approval rate was high, now that voters’ support for the government is declining, this strategy may ultimately backfire. We have carried out new survey research which adds evidence to this perspective. The key finding from our research is striking: that merely mentioning the constitutional reform has been proposed by the government reduces its support among Italian voters.
Roma – Di fronte al referendum costituzionale del prossimo 4 dicembre, il governo si trova davanti a un paradosso: non può non sostenere la riforma fortemente voluta dal presidente del Consiglio, Matteo Renzi, ma allo stesso tempo questo sostegno indebolisce il consenso al fronte del Sì. È la situazione che emerge da uno studio realizzato dall’Istituto universitario europeo insieme con l’Università di Zurigo e l’istituto di ricerca Swg, su un campione rappresentativo di elettori italiani con accesso a internet e che si è svolto tra il 5 ottobre e il 3 novembre scorsi.
The next week I’ll be at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf where I’ll be teaching a block seminar on Political Psychology. The seminar covers numerous topics that are often addressed by political psychology, ranging from decision making to the role of the elites and political parties. I personally designed the syllabus myself, and I really look forward to teaching such a fascinating discipline to bachelor and master’s students at HHU.
Tomorrow I’ll be presenting one of my recent studies on the UK’s EU referendum at University of Warwick. The presentation is part of the interdisciplinary workshop “Media and new technologies in the Brexit referendum“, organised by the Department of Economics and Warwick Policy Lab (WPL).
The workshop will be followed by a roundtable where I have also been invited to talk. The roundatble will bring together scholars and professionals from various backgrounds to analyse the 99 days of Theresa May’s government and the challenges to UK-EU relations brought about by Brexit.
Last weekend I went to Canterbury to attend the 2016 EPOP Conference. The programme gathered several interesting presentations, including a whole set of studies on Britain’s EU Referendum. The conference has been an extremely stimulating venue in which I received useful feedback and comments on my paper on risk propensity and vote in referendum campaigns.
The outcome of the Brexit referendum has sparked a wave of comments to understand who the Leave voters are. The evidence so far indicates that those who decided to leave the EU tend to be older, less educated and poorer than those who decided to remain in the EU. However, there is another factor that seems to explain support for Brexit, i.e. voters’ inclination to take risks. Despite presenting two apparently equivalent options, referendums require voters to choose between the uncertainty of a change – such as a constitutional change or the introduction of a new policy – and the relative certainty of maintaining the status quo. In most cases, the ‘change option’ is intrinsically riskier than keeping the status quo, and the outcome of Britain’s EU referendum clearly shows that “Brexit is riskier than Bremain”, as Timothy Garton Ash wrote.
Given these differences between referendum options in terms of risks and uncertainties, we can expect risk preferences to influence not only voting decisions, but also how voters react to campaign arguments from both sides of the referendum campaign. Were risk takers more likely to vote Leave in the Brexit referendum, and how did information influence their voting decisions?
A referendum implies two radically different choices. On the one hand, you can vote for a change, such as a constitutional change, the introduction of a new policy, or the approval of a new treaty. On the other, you can refuse the proposed change and maintain the status quo.
Although choosing the status quo does not necessarily correspond to the safest option, it does correspond to the less uncertain one. “Brexit is riskier than Bremain”, as Timothy Garton Ash wrote in relation to the upcoming EU referendum. But considering the intrinsic differences between referendum options, does information also have different effects on voting decisions?
The Centre for the Study of Public Policy (CSPP) at University of Strathclyde has published a new version of my working paper on the effect of information in the Scottish independence referendum. The abstract of the paper is available here.
From 17 to 20 May I was in Konstanz at a symposium organised by the Graduate School of Decision Science, University of Konstanz. The symposium, entitled “Exploring Ignorance: Acquisition, Selection and Processing of Information” , gathered scholars from political science, economics and psychology, and was a fantastic chance to explore the topics of information processing and decision making from an interdisciplinary perspective.
As part of the programme, I presented part of my research on the effects of information in the campaign for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.