The Coronavirus Crisis as Catalyst for EU Legitimacy? Italian Public Opinion and the EU during the Pandemic


Over the past few years, the EU has been challenged by multiple disintegration forces sustained by a growing number of Eurosceptic citizens. In this critical scenario, Italy has emerged as a relevant case because of its transformation from a leading pro-integration country to a country where EU integration is an increasingly divisive issue. We explore the relationship between Italian public opinion and the EU, with a specific interest in understanding how the coronavirus crisis may affect such a relationship, supposing that our case study may also be revealing as to how a crisis context can produce effects on the popular legitimacy of the EU. We show that in Italy there is demand from some majoritarian segments of society for stronger cooperation in the EU. To explain the apparent paradox of why Italians decreasingly feel that their country benefits from the EU but still want to increase EU cooperation in certain areas, we turn to the argument of the public's instrumental approach to the principle of burden-sharing: citizens support deeper integration to face the costs of the most pressing crises affecting the country and the EU at large.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v14i1p202

Keywords: burden-sharing; coronavirus crisis; EU attitudes; Italy; public opinion


Baker, R., Blumberg, S., Brick, J., Couper, M., Courtright, M., Dennis, J., Zahs, D. (2010) “Aapor Report on Online Panels”, The Public Opinion Quarterly, 74 (4): 711-781.

Banducci, S. A., Karp, J. A. & Loedel, P. H. (2009). “Economic interests and public support for the euro”, Journal of European Public Policy 16(4): 564-581.

Bellucci, P. (2014) “The Political Consequences of Blame Attribution for the Economic Crisis in the 2013 Italian National Election”, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties 24: 243–263.

Bellucci, P. and Serricchio, F. (2012) “Cosa pensano i cittadini dell'Europa”. In Bellucci P. and Conti N. (eds) Gli italiani e l’Europa. Rome: Carocci.

Bobba, G. and Seddone, A. (forthcoming in 2021) “Is something changing? The impact of the COVID-19 emergency on the attitudes of Italians towards the EU”, Italian Political Science.

Braun, D. and Tausendpfund, M. (2014) “The Impact of the Euro Crisis on Citizens” Support for the European Union”, Journal of European Integration 36: 231–245.

Carrubba, C. J. (1997). “Net financial transfers in the European Union: who gets what and why?”, The Journal of Politics 59 (2): 469-496.

Clements, B., Nanou, K., and Verney, S. (2014). “We no longer love you, but we don’t want to leave you: the Eurozone crisis and popular Euroscepticism in Greece”, Journal of European Integration 36(3): 247-265.

Conti, N., Di Mauro, D. and Memoli, V. (2020) “Immigration, security and the economy: who should bear the burden of global crises? Burden-sharing and citizens’ support for EU integration in Italy”, Contemporary Italian Politics, 12(1),: 77-97.

Conti, N., Marangoni, F. and Verzichelli, L. (2020b) “Euroscepticism in Italy from the Onset of the Crisis: Tired of Europe?”, South European Society and Politics, online first, 1-26. doi: 10.1080/13608746.2020.1757885

Conti, N. and V. Memoli (2015) “Show the Money First! Recent Public Attitudes Towards the EU in Italy”, Italian Political Science Review 45: 203–222.

de Wilde P (2021) “Rebound? The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Crises on Public Support and Trust in European Governance”. In Riddervold M., Trondal J., Newsome A. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of EU Crises, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Di Mauro, D (2014) “Is the Honeymoon Over? Explaining Italy”s Mass Support and Opposition Towards Europe”, Perspectives on European Politics and Society 15: 143–164.

Dyson, K. and Featherstone, K. (1996) “Italy and EMU as a ‘Vincolo Esterno’: empowering the technocrats, transforming the state”, South European Society and Politics 1: 272-299.

European Council on Foreign Relations (2020) Europe’s pandemic politics: How the virus has changed the public’s worldview, June, available from [accessed 15 July 2020].

Ferrera, M. (2009) “The JCMS Annual Lecture: National Welfare States and European Integration: In Search of a “virtuous Nesting”“, Journal of Common Market Studies 47: 219–233.

Franchino, F. and Negri, F. (2018) “The Fiscally Moderate Italian Populist Voter: Evidence from a Survey Experiment”, Party Politics, online first, doi:10.1177/1354068818761180.

Franchino, F., and Segatti, P. (2019) “Public opinion on the Eurozone fiscal union: evidence from survey experiments in Italy”, Journal of European Public Policy 26(1): 126-148.

Gabel, M. (1998) Interests and Integration: Market Liberalizaiton, Public Opinion, and European Union. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Gabel, M. and Palmer, H. (1995) “Understanding Variation in Public Support for European Integration”, European Journal of Political Research 27(1): 3-19.

Garry, J., and Tilley, J. (2009). “The macroeconomic factors conditioning the impact of identity on attitudes towards the EU” European Union Politics 10(3): 361-379.

Gomez, R. (2015) “The Economy Strikes Back: Support for the EU during the Great Recession”, Journal of Common Market Studies 53: 577–592.

Hayward, J. and R. Wurzel (eds.) (2012) European Disunion: Between Sovereignty and Solidarity, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hobolt, S. B. and C. E. de Vries (2016) “Public Support for European Integration”, Annual Review of Political Science 19: 413–432.

Hobolt, S. and Leblond, P. (2009) “Is my crown better than your euro? Exchange rates and public opinion on the European single currency”, European Union Politics 10(2): 202-225.

Hobolt, S. B., and Tilley, J. (2014) Blaming Europe?: Responsibility without accountability in the European Union, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hooghe, L. and Marks, G. (2009) “A Postfunctionalist Theory of European Integration: From Permissive Consensus to Constraining Dissensus”, British Journal of Political Science 39: 1– 23.

Kuhn, T. and Stoeckel, F. (2014) “When European integration becomes costly: the euro crisis and public support for European economic governance”, Journal of European Public Policy 21(4): 624-641.

Mc Laren, L. (2006). Identity, Interest and attitudes to European Integration. Basinkstoke: Palgrave, McMillan.

Milward, A. (1999) The European Rescue of the Nation State, London: Routledge.

Moravcsik, A. (1993) “Preferences and power in the European Community: a liberal intergovernmentalist approach.”, Journal of Common Market Studies 31: 473-524.

Quaglia, L. (2011) “The Ebb and Flow’of Euroscepticism in Italy” South European Society and Politics 16(01): 31-50.

Ross, M.G. and Borgmann-Prebil, Y. (eds.) (2010) Promoting Solidarity in the European Union, New York: Oxford University Press.

Rusu, H. and Gheorghiță, A. (2014) “Transnational solidarity and public support for the EU enlargement”, Sociológia 46: 261–282.

Sánchez-Cuenca, I. (2000) “The political basis of support for European Integration”, European Union Politics, 1(2): 147–171.

Serricchio, F. (2012) “Italian Citizens and Europe: Explaining the Growth of Euroscepticism”, Bulletin of Italian Politics 4: 115–134.

Teperoglou, E. and Belchior, A. M. (2020) “Ιs ‘Old Southern Europe’ Still Eurosceptic? Determinants of Mass Attitudes before, during and after the Eurozone Crisis”, South European Society and Politics, 1-26,

Thielemann, E. (2012) “Burden-sharing”, in E. Jones, A. Menon and S. Weatherill (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the European Union, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 810-824.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.