ROME (Reuters) – A large majority of Italians are in favor of staying in the euro zone and are also against holding a referendum on membership, an opinion poll in Corriere della Sera newspaper showed on Sunday.
Italy’s role in the currency bloc has been widely debated since last month’s election showed strong results for parties critical of austerity measures they said had been imposed by Italy’s partners, especially Germany.
Outgoing technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti, who imposed tough budget cuts and tax hikes over the last year, fared particularly badly at the vote.
However the survey, by polling company ISPO, showed 74 percent of Italians wanted to keep the euro, with just 16 percent favoring a return to Italy’s old lira currency.
At the same time, 69 percent said they were either strongly or moderately against holding a referendum, compared with 30 percent who thought it was a quite good or very good idea.
Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement which emerged as the biggest party in the country at the election, has said Italy should hold a non-binding, online referendum on euro membership.
But the poll showed that even among 5-Star voters, 73 percent did not want to return to the lira and 65 percent did not want a formal referendum on euro membership.
Support for keeping the euro among 5-Star voters was in line with the electorate as a whole and was stronger than among voters of Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition.
Center-left voters were the most pro-euro group, while anti-euro sentiment was strongest among supporters of the Northern League, a party allied with Berlusconi’s that wants more autonomy for Italy’s wealthy northern regions.
Yet even among the Northern League voters, only 25 percent wanted to return to the lira, while 44 percent were in favor of a referendum.
Among the whole electorate, the proportion who said a return to the lira would be bad for the economy has grown steadily in the last nine months.
In the latest survey, conducted on March 6-7, those who thought it would be either extremely or moderately bad stood at 82 percent, up from 74 percent in September last year and 70 percent in June.
Grillo’s rhetoric on the euro has become more moderate over the last six months, first calling for withdrawal, then for a referendum and most recently to an online consultation to encourage debate on an often taboo subject.
In a book he published last month he denied he had called for a euro exit.
“All I said was that we want to be informed about a plan B on leaving the euro, on what happens if we stay in and what happens if we leave, this information is our right,” he said.
(Reporting by Gavin Jones. Editing by Jane Merriman)