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The Political Consequences of Euroscepticism: Who, What, When and Where?

Parties and elections
European Union
Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Andreas Goldberg
University of Amsterdam
Workshop Co-Director
Catherine De Vries
University of Essex

An outline of the topic:

Scholarly interest in the topic of EU issue voting has increased tremendously over the last two decades. Recent studies suggest that the notions of European elections as second-order and EU attitudes in national election as largely irrelevant should be updated (see De Vries 2007, Hobolt et al. 2009, De Vries and Hobolt 2012, Van der Brug and De Vreese 2016 for example). This work documents a direct link between EU attitudes and voting behaviour, a phenomenon referred to as EU issue voting (De Vries 2007). Not least, the rise of populist parties in many European countries have fuelled the debate about European integration and increased the importance of EU-related concerns for behaviour of citizens at the ballot box. Despite the widespread attention to and use of the concept EU issue voting, its actual content, meaning and importance is not always clear. There are at least four areas that deserve more careful inspection.
First, who are the people that base their vote choice in national and European elections on their EU attitudes? Are these only Eurosceptics, or also Euroenthusiasts? Are these the citizens that feel they are losing out, both economically and culturally, from the European integration process? The literature is virtually silent when it comes to the socio-demographic profile of the EU issue voter. This is unfortunate, as it for example does not allow us to understand how EU attitudes and the rise of populist parties are substantively linked.
Second, what EU concerns do voters actually use when casting their ballot? Previous research has often treated EU attitudes voting as a largely uni-dimensional concept with voters either being pro or against the EU. In recent years, however, more and more studies have highlighted the multidimensionality of EU attitudes (e.g. Boomgaarden et al. 2011, De Vries 2017). For instance, these studies differentiate between different aspects of EU-related concerns such as identity, utilitarianism or performance (Boomgaarden et al. 2011) or between policies and the regime that yields them (De Vries 2017). So far, little attention has been paid to the specific aspects that shape the vote, and if the link between these specific EU attitudes and the vote is similar across countries, and within countries over time.
Third, when did EU issue become a force in electoral politics and how has it developed over time? Are there differences in degree as well as in the kind of EU issue voting in the early years of public contention over European integration, at the time of the Maastricht Treaty for example, compared to recent times, most notably the Brexit referendum? Arguably, the experience of citizens with the EU and the position of their country takes within it have changed dramatically over the past twenty years. Against this backdrop, it seems plausible to assume that citizens today vote on the basis of different EU considerations using different information sources, tapping into different experiences, and based on strikingly different issue priorities.
Fourth and related, where is EU issue voting most pronounced? The experiences citizens have with the EU vary drastically across the EU. Many scholars argue that the recent Eurozone crisis, which uncovered deep structural imbalances within the EU, has made those experiences diverge even more (Stiglitz 2016, De Vries 2017). For instance, people in some countries feel that they have benefited from membership while other populations feel that they have not as much. Similarly, in some countries people might be more willing to transfer power to Brussels, whereas in others the citizens feel more and more ruled by a “foreign” power. National contexts and the experiences they represent thus play a decisive role when it comes to how people will translate EU attitudes into a vote choice. Different characteristics of national context, such as the state of the economy, quality of government, media coverage etc. may also shape EU issue voting in very different ways. Although existing work already stresses the importance of the national context (e.g. Sanchez-Cuenca 2000, Rohrschneider 2002, De Vries 2017), the exact way in which these contexts shape people’s voting decisions is less clear. Also, it may very well be that citizens view their national context in relative terms and compare it to the rest of the EU or to the situation in neighbouring countries. Indeed, studies in economic voting stress the importance of comparative benchmarking (Kayser and Peress 2012). These are avenues worth exploring.
As this short discussion demonstrates, the different aspects of EU issue voting are not only important, but perhaps cannot fruitfully be explored independently. This workshop thus especially invites papers that do not tackle one of the topics in isolation, but rather try to combine them into a coherent framework.

Its relation to existing research:

The topic of this workshop, trying to understand the foundations and contours of EU issue voting in national and European parliamentary elections across time and space, relates and contributes to a variety of research areas. First and foremost, it adds to a set of recent studies (De Vries 2007, Hobolt et al. 2009, De Vries and Hobolt 2012, Van der Brug and De Vreese 2016 for example) that present findings that challenge much of the traditional work on the importance of EU related concerns in national and European elections. Reif and Schmitt (1980) and many scholars since them have characterized EP elections as second order national elections in which EU related concerns are of little to no importance. Moreover, Van der Eijk and Franklin (2004) described the role of EU concerns in national elections as marginal. The recent surge of Eurosceptic vote shares in the 2014 EP elections and in a variety of regional and national elections challenges these views. To date, we do not fully understand if EU attitudes structure this rise in Eurosceptic vote share, and what the consequences could be (could this unseat existing patters of party competition?). This workshop aids us in this understanding. Second, this workshop helps us to make sense of the current populist tide and the extent to which this relates to people’s views about European integration. It allows us to understand if this electoral shift towards populist parties is driven, at least in part, by a sense of people that they have lost out in terms of European integration. Finally, this workshop relates to the general literature on voting behaviour and party competition in Europe. It will present cutting-edge analyses of the issues that shaped recent elections across the European continent while at the same time putting them into an historical perspective. This workshop will allow us to revisit some important debates about the role of social structure versus policy issues play in elections in Europe ever since the unravelling of the cleavages that characterized voting behaviour and party competition for a century. Have issues relating to European integration indeed opened up a new cleavage that pits nationalists and cosmopolitans against each other as some scholars suggest (see Kriesi et al. 2008), or do EU issues map unto existing dimensions, such as the economic left/right. And, finally, how does this vary across time and space?

Boomgaarden, H. G., Schuck, A. R. T., Elenbaas, M., & de Vreese, C. H. (2011). Mapping EU attitudes: Conceptual and empirical dimensions of Euroscepticism and EU support. European Union Politics, 12 (2), 241–266.

De Vries, C. E. (2007). Sleeping giant: Fact or fairytale? How European integration affects national elections. European Union Politics, 8(3), 363-385.

De Vries, C. E. (2017). Euroscepticism and the Future of European Integration. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

De Vries, C. E., & Hobolt, S. B. (2012). When dimensions collide: The electoral success of issue entrepreneurs. European Union Politics, 13(2), 246-268.

Hobolt, S. B., Spoon, J. J., & Tilley, J. (2009). A vote against Europe? Explaining defection at the 1999 and 2004 European Parliament elections. British journal of political science, 39(1), 93-115.

Kayser, M. A., & Peress, M. (2012). Benchmarking across borders: electoral accountability and the necessity of comparison. American Political Science Review, 106(03), 661-684.

Reif, K., & Schmitt, H. (1980). Nine second–order national elections – A conceptual framework for the analysis of European election results. European Journal of Political Research, 8 (1), 3–44.

Rohrschneider, R. (2002). The democracy deficit and mass support for an EU-wide government. American Journal of Political Science, 463-475.

Sánchez-Cuenca, I. (2000). The political basis of support for European integration. European Union Politics, 1(2), 147-171.

Stiglitz, J. (2016). Die Schatten der Globalisierung. Siedler Verlag.

van der Brug, W., & de Vreese, C. H. (2016). (Un) intended Consequences of European Parliamentary Elections. Oxford University Press.

Van der Eijk, C., & Franklin, M. N. (2004). Potential for contestation on European matters at national elections in Europe. European integration and political conflict, 32-50.

Paper List

Title Details
Attitudes Towards Immigration and Public Support for the EU View Paper Details
Back for Revenge? Appraising Euroscepticism Before and After the 2008 Economic Debt Crisis View Paper Details
Catch 22: Voters between Left/Right and EU-Integration View Paper Details
Could Euroscepticism be a Rational Answer from the French Public to Ambivalent Political Elites? View Paper Details
Elections to the European Parliament: Second Order Elections in Western European and Third Order Elections in Eastern Europe View Paper Details
EU Issue Salience and Ambivalent Attitudes: A Field Experiment in Priming View Paper Details
European Union Issues and Party Competition: How does the Popularity of Extreme Right Parties affect EU Positions of Mainstream Parties? View Paper Details
Euroscepticism and Populism in Italy: Parties and Citizens in National and European Elections (1979-2017) View Paper Details
How has the European Sovereign Debt Crisis changed the Party Space in Europe? View Paper Details
Not so Eager to Leave: Populist Radical Right Parties’ Responses to Brexit View Paper Details
The Changing Relationship between Ideological Dimensions and Party Positions on European Integration View Paper Details
The Consequences of Politicisation of the EU in the Media for Voting Behaviour, 2002-2017 View Paper Details
The Economy and EU Support: The Utilitarian Explanation in Ordinary and Extraordinary Times View Paper Details
The Ties that Bind also Divide: The 'Dark Side' of EU Support View Paper Details
The Who's Who of Euroscepticism: A Typology based on Multidimensional EU Attitudes View Paper Details
When Do Parties Risk Politicizing Europe? How the Prospect of Losing Power Affects Issue Entrepreneurship View Paper Details
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