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The COVID-19 Pandemic and Euroscepticism in Germany: A Survey Experiment Examining the Impact of the EU's Pandemic Response on Public Support for the EU

European Union
Euroscepticism
Public Opinion
Survey Experiments
Zuzana Ringlerova
Masaryk University
Evelyn Bytzek
Universität Koblenz-Landau
Zuzana Ringlerova
Masaryk University
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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on European societies. In addition to being a serious public health challenge, the pandemic has been a serious economic and political challenge. This paper addresses the broader question of how the pandemic affected the relationship between political systems and their citizens, namely the European Union (EU) and its citizens. It uses the case of Germany to look at how the framing of the EU's response to the pandemic affects public support for EU membership. Data from an original survey experiment show that exposing individuals to negative messages about the EU's response to the pandemic leads to lower support for EU membership. A bit surprisingly, the results also suggest that exposing individuals to positive messages about the EU's response to the pandemic may also lead to lower support for the EU. Treatment validation checks show that the experimental treatment did not change respondents' level of fear of the pandemic, but it did change their evaluation of how well the EU did in responding to the pandemic. Overall, this study shows that if citizens perceive the EU's response to the pandemic as poor, their support for EU membership declines. However, positive messages about the EU's response to the pandemic likely do not replenish the pool of public support. Therefore, the pandemic offers more tools to opponents of European integration than to proponents of the EU.