The electoral payoff of immigration flows for anti-immigration parties: The case of Italy’s Lega Nord

Citation: Abbondanza, G. & Bailo, F. (2018). The electoral payoff of immigration flows for anti-immigration parties: The case of Italy’s Lega Nord. European Political Science, 17(3), 378–403.


Keywords: euroscepticism and the European Union; far-right politics; political parties and electoral behaviour

DOI: 10.1057/s41304-016-0097-0

The aim of this article is to examine and quantify the relationship between regular immigration and voting for anti-immigration parties in Italy’s eight Northern regions – from 1992 to 2015 – and in Italy’s forty-five Northern provinces from 2004 to 2015. Firstly, we identified the Lega Nord as Italy’s main xenophobic party, then we used a fixed effects regression model for panel data to test our hypothesis, while controlling for a series of social, political and economic variables. Our results suggest that there is a positive and significant effect: an increase of 1 per cent in the number of new regular immigrants is associated with an increase of more than 2 per cent in the votes given to the Lega Nord; voter-turnout is significantly and negatively associated with Lega Nord’s vote-share, and a high perception of crime – but not actual crime – is positively associated with anti-immigration votes. At the provincial level, we also found a positive association between Muslim foreign population and Lega Nord’s vote-share. These results ought to be considered along with the fact that Northern Italy is highly representative of the wealthiest and most densely populated regions of Europe, suggesting the possibility that similar phenomena could be witnessed in other comparable contexts.

Relative opposition to immigration, based on voters’ opinions in ITANES surveys.

Votes for Lega Nord and percentage of regular immigrants in Northern Italy.