Vincenzo Galasso (Bocconi University)
10 February 2022 @ 14:00 - 15:30
- Past event
“Fighting Populism on Its Own Turf: Experimental Evidence”
Abstract. We experimentally evaluate how traditional parties may respond to the challenge posed by populist parties when facing issues that are particularly fitting for populist messages, such as the fabricated antagonism between “pure” people and “corrupt” elite. The testing ground is then 2020 Italian referendum on the reduction of members of Parliament proposed by populist parties. We implement both a large-scale field experiment, with almost one million impressions of programmatic advertising, and a survey experiment. In both settings, the treatments are two video ads: a video providing information on the likely costs of cutting MPs aimed at deconstructing the populist narrative and a video attacking the credibility of the populist politicians, who promoted the reduction of MPS, aimed at reducing trust in them. Our field experiment shows that the latter video is more effective at capturing the viewers’ attention. Moreover, it decreases the turnout rate and, to a lesser extent, the “Yes” votes (in favor of reducing the MPs). We present a theoretical framework based two ingredients – trust in traditional parties and information acquisition – to account for these findings and to provide additional predictions. In the survey experiment, both (unskippable) videos reduce the “Yes” vote and increase the share of undecided. For voter of traditional parties, the effects are concentrated among people with low previous political information. For individuals with no trust in traditional parties, previous political information plays no role.