Sovereignist claims in France and Italy

‘Sovereignism’ has been characterised as a product of globalisation and Europeanisation, presumably as an (over)reaction to the perceived negative consequences of both. Luca Carrieri and Nicolò Conti's research shows that party supply on sovereignism is strongly influenced by public demand

Sovereignism: alive and well

Sovereignism reflects the wish to ‘take back control’. It emphasises state-level government, demanding the recovery of state power that has slipped away to more distant layers of governance. Our recent article examines two countries with very different pasts in the matter of national sovereignty and its defence: France and Italy.

Both countries have seen an impressive expansion of the sovereignist camp in recent times. New political leadership has arisen: think of Giorgia Meloni in Italy and Éric Zemmour in France. More established sovereignist leaderships, too, have confirmed ongoing popularity and influence. Marine Le Pen in France and Matteo Salvini in Italy are prime examples.

Our research shows how citizen demand has influenced the sovereignist supply in these two countries. This supply has been largely demand-driven, an effect of a sovereignist trend in public opinion which started years before. Current developments are merely a reflection of this.


We conducted analysis of the political leadership's discourse on Twitter during election campaigns in France and Italy. In both countries, several parties and leaders made efforts to emphasise sovereignist issues. This vindicates the argument put forward by several scholars that transnational issues become more of a focal point in political competition.

Despite coming from different backgrounds, nowadays France and Italy appear close to each other with respect to mobilisation on sovereignist issues

The two countries remain different in many respects. But despite coming from different backgrounds, nowadays France and Italy appear close to each other with respect to mobilisation on sovereignist issues. The two countries' political competition along these lines also hold similarities. A demarcationist camp, rooted in claims for the re-appropriation of state sovereignty and border control, opposes the rest. This marks a fundamental pattern of political contest.

Party supply

In both countries, the main promoters of sovereignist issues have been the usual suspects: (radical) right-wing, traditional authoritarian nationalist, and Eurosceptic parties. Such parties, far more than others, emphasise the sovereignist dimension. They advance arguments for ‘taking back control’, with special emphasis on state-level governance. Beyond this largely expected ideological connotation of sovereignism, we find that parties and their frontrunners are in harmony with their voters.

Public demand

By adding public opinion data to our analysis, we document how public opinion incentives matter for party supply on sovereignism. To win more votes at elections, parties tend to emphasise issue goals on which they hold high public credibility. Moreover, to minimise the risk of internal division, parties also emphasise issues they know their electoral base broadly supports. We find that, in both countries, parties emphasised sovereignist issues only when they believed the public found them credible. This was probably a means to amplify such parties' perceived competence.

Parties tend to emphasise issue goals that yield a high level of credibility, and to emphasise sovereignist issues when they are credible issues for the public

Furthermore, we find that intra-party support positively influences the Twitter emphasis on sovereignist issues. Our results confirm that parties tend to emphasise claims which the public regards as more credible. Parties also emphasise issues they know will attract greater support from their constituents; sovereignist issues are no exception.

Twitter as a platform

Our findings also suggest that Twitter has emerged as a platform where parties/frontrunners can respond to the demands of their constituents. On Twitter, political actors emphasise (sovereignist) issues which voters perceive as more credible, and for which there is clear demand.

In our view, this is important information for current and future research on Twitter and other social media. These platforms are tools of political and electoral activity that may create valuable congruence between parties and their voters.

This article presents the views of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the ECPR or the Editors of The Loop.

Contributing Authors

photograph of Luca Carrieri Luca Carrieri Assistant Professor, Department of Law and Economics, Unitelma Sapienza, Università degli Studi di Roma More by this author
photograph of Nicolò Conti Nicolò Conti Professor of Political Science, Department of Law and Economics, Unitelma Sapienza, Università degli Studi di Roma More by this author

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