Nationalist populist parties and movements are growing in support throughout Europe. These groups are known for their opposition to immigration, their ‘anti-establishment’ views and their concern for protecting national culture. Their rise in popularity has gone hand-in-hand with the advent of social media, and they are adept at using new technology to amplify their message, recruit and organise.

Of these groups, Italy’s Lega Nord can perhaps lay claim to the greatest political success. The party has been in government three times, including for eight of the last 11 years holding several key ministries in the coalition government led by Silvio Berlusconi. It is a party with a clear ideology, emphasising tough limits on immigration, greater northern autonomy, and characterising Muslims and Islam as representing a fundamental threat to the values and cultural integrity of northern Italians. Recently the financial crisis has also helped create an even wider audience for the popular new leader, Roberto Maroni’s Eurosceptic appeals.

This report presents the results of a survey of Facebook fans of Lega Nord. It includes data on who they are, what they think, and what motivates them to shift from virtual to real-world activism. It also compares them with other similar parties in Western Europe, shedding light on their growing online support, and the relationship between their online and offline activities. This report is the fifth in a series of country specific briefings about the online support of populist parties in 12 European countries, based on our survey of 13,000 Facebook fans of these groups.