Home » Increasingly pro-NATO and worried of China and Russia: Italians in 2023

Increasingly pro-NATO and worried of China and Russia: Italians in 2023

An economic crisis is now the top concern in Italy, and uncertainty about the outcome of the war is rife. Meanwhile, the citizens’ trust in Western countries and NATO is on the rise – as is distrust in autocracies – and most Italians back upping defence capabilities

Money dominates Italian fears. The most recent ISPI/IPSOS poll surveyed thousands of Italian citizens to gauge their sentiment on current affairs, starting with what worries them the most. And even after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the end of peace in the Old Continent, Italian citizens are most concerned about the economy.

  • 52% of respondents pointed out they fear a new economic crisis, up from last year’s all-time low of 43%.
  • Climate change and migration tied in second place at 11%, while armed conflict came in third (8%).
  • Fear of the Covid-19 pandemic dropped significantly year-on-year, from 19% to 3%.

Staunchly Western… When respondents were asked whether or not certain actors or countries are Italy’s allies in the world, opinions become increasingly sharp, reads the report, which shows that pro-West views are on the rise.

  • “NATO, the European Union and the United States are perceived as allies by at least 60% of Italians, with the EU and the US on the rise compared to previous surveys, and NATO gaining even more support than the EU (64% v 62%).”
  • In parallel, perceptions of an “alliance” towards China and Russia plummeted. Those who looked favourably upon Beijing dropped sharply from 36% in 2020 to 16% today. And whereas 28% of respondents felt warm about Russia in 2021, that number descended to 10% this year.

…and more wary of autocracies. In the 2023 survey, Russia climbed five places to become the world’s top threat in the eyes of Italians. 36% of respondents thought so, compared to 8% in previous years. China, which was 2022’s greatest threat (34%), fell to second place (13%).

  • That, however, does not mean Rome is warming up to Beijing. Quite the contrary: when asked directly about Beijing, 78% of Italians declared that China is untrustworthy. Hence, most agree on the government’s increased health checks for people arriving from China.
  • Only a small minority (10%) see Beijing as a reliable partner, and 12% disagree with the China-specific checks – although that’s because they believe the pandemic is over, not because they think it is right to trust Beijing.

Talking Ukraine. The ISPI/IPSOS poll highlights the uncertainty around the issue: one in three Italians has no idea on how the conflict will end. A peace agreement remains their preferred outcome, though that solution plummeted from 44% last year to 31% now. Also, 16% now believe the war could end with a coup d’etat in Russia, up from 10% last year.

  • Most Italians (67%) agree that Ukraine should join the European Union. 38% believe it’s best to wait some time, while 29% think it should happen immediately. The remaining third opposes Kyiv’s entrance into the EU’s capitals.

The defence dossier. Finally, the report underscores that Italians are overwhelmingly in favour of strengthening the military, as 83% of them say something should be done about it, and a strong majority of them (62%) believe it must happen in a multilateral context.

  • The preferred option is fostering the construction of a European army (34%), with the option to strengthen cooperation, with NATO coming in second (28%). Finally, 21% would rather strengthen the national army – and 17% prefer nothing.

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