Research design

Studying how extreme-right groups achieve attention in public debates presents formidable methodological challenges. Whereas the Appendices offer more details about the data and methods used to study hybridization in CPI’s politics, this section focuses on three crucial elements in the research design of the volume. First, we describe the case selection strategy; then, we present how we gauge CPI’s profile in public debates, internal supply-side and external mobilization factors, presenting data sources and methods. Taken together, these choices allowed us to observe CasaPound’s politics over a time span ranging from the foundation of the group in December 2003 until the latest Italian general election in March 2018.

Case selection: why CasaPound Italia?

We focus on CPI as a deviant case study (Seawright and Gening 2008). The group’s extreme-right political beliefs and poor electoral support are at odds with the high profile that CPI currently enjoys in Italian public debates. Unlike CPI, in fact, most far-right organizations in Europe either gave up their direct links with inter-war ideologies (to get legitimation), or stuck to these while accepting that they would then be viewed as an outcast and play a minimal role. Even the extreme-right Golden Dawn, which is often described as neo-Nazi by pundits and political opponents, has repeatedly denied any official connection to National Socialism. On the contrary, groups that have failed to take a distance from either Fascism or Nazism have generally been relegated to underground roles, often incurring legal sanctions or proscription as with National Action (NA) in the United Kingdom.

In this respect, we consider that CasaPound represents a deviation from the nonn, as one would expect similar groups to be either more cautious in claiming inspiration from historical Fascism or enjoy less political leeway in accessing public debates. By focusing on CasaPound’s politics over the past 15 years, this study sets out to uncover the hybridization strategies that allowed it to succeed where others had failed. The volume builds on a broad empirical base, which allows us to address how CPI’s profile in public debates relates to internal supply-side and external mobilization factors: ideology, organization, activism, mobilization, and communication strategies. Both are addressed by means of different data types and mixed-methods techniques for analysis (Della Porta and Keating 2008).

Gauging CasaPound’s profile in public debates

To gauge CPI’s profile in public debates in Italy, we consider two main indicators accounting for the group’s visibility. We follow classic approaches and study the content of public debates through articles in quality newspapers (see Rooduijn 2014). Although quality newspapers are not the only media venue where public debates take shape — for instance, there are also TV and radio programmes, magazines and tabloids and sources generated by movements themselves - quality newspapers are designed to be for most people a ‘forum for the articulation of multiple ideas in an attempt to promote public debate on salient issues’ (Day and Golan 2005: 62)/’ Additionally, quality media sources are of utmost importance because of their wide distribution and status. Furthermore, while newspaper circulation has declined in established democracies mostly to the benefit of new media they still serve as major channel for public debates and act as core agenda-setters (Vliegenthart and Walgrave 2012). This is particularly relevant when observing the relationship between media contents and visibility of collective actors (Koopmans and Statham 1999). To measure the visibility of CasaPound in the media, we use a Political Claims Analysis (PCA) and coded all the claims by CPI that were reported in the quality paper II Corriere della Sera in the period 2004—2015, based on an ad hoc codebook (see Appendix 3). To account for possible media bias, we then applied the same coding scheme to all online press releases published by CPI between 2009 and 2015 and scraped automatically from the official website of the group. As public debates increasingly take shape on the internet and in online fora, we also collected indicators of CPI’s online visibility. We use the number of Facebook followers of CPI’s official pages and website traffic statistics from SimitarWeb.

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