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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

Electoral Democracy and European Integration: How the Current EU Crises Affect Voters, Parties and Elections in the European Multi-Level Electoral System

Parties and elections
Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Hermann Schmitt
Universität Mannheim
Workshop Co-Director
Eftychia Teperoglou
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

One of the most dynamic research directions in the discipline of political science concerns the shift of attention from the national electoral setting towards multi-level electoral politics. The latter term refers to the interdependence of political actors’ attitudes and behaviours in different electoral arenas and in different “types” of elections. The European Union (EU) has become one of the most prominent examples, where supra-national, national and sub-national levels of jurisdiction are co-operating, but to some degree also competing with one another (Hooghe & Marks 2001; 2009). Next to the EU, multiple levels of political competition are especially characteristic for federal states (like the US, Canada, Belgium, Germany and Spain). However, there are attempts to develop a research agenda spanning multiple electoral levels also for countries where the dispersion of power between the different levels of governance is less evident (van der Eijk & Schmitt 2007).

The shift towards multi-level electoral politics posits some significant challenges for research. In particularly, the spill-over towards the EU level where increasing powers in various policy domains are located has given rise to a debate about the legitimacy of the policy-making process quite generally. Moreover, according to certain scholars, there is an increasing politicisation of the EU dimension as a result of this spillover, and especially since the onset of the economic crisis in the late 2000 which allegedly has contributed to the formation of a transnational cleavage (Hooghe & Marks 2018) along the lines of Lipset and Rokkan's (1967) well-known theoretical stipulations. The fact that political competition in Europe is not concentrated any longer at the national level posits a number of questions regarding the interplay of the different electoral actors (voters, parties and political elites) in this multi-level system. The economic crisis has nurtured an ongoing debate about both the extent of European integration and the allocation of EU resources. Especially but not only among the countries of the Southern periphery, what is at stake is the loss of sovereignty to supranational actors and international institutions beyond electoral control (such as International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank).

The overarching goal of the workshop is to explore theoretically and empirically the ongoing transformations of the European multi-level electoral system by focusing both on the demand side of electoral competition (i.e. voter preferences) and the supply side (parties’ policy positions and legislative behaviours) in different electoral arenas. The papers should explore the relative congruence of voters’ and parties’ issue positions regarding the European integration as well as their evaluations of EU democracy. There is some evidence that voters and parties positions and behavioural options are spanning across different levels of elections (van der Eijk & Schmitt 2007; also Schmitt & Teperoglou 2018 and Braun and Schmitt forthcoming).

Our workshop seeks answers to two main research questions:

The first one asks about relevant intermediate factors, or contextual variables affecting the behavior of actors at different levels. We expect that two of them have a significant impact. These are the salience of an election and the political climate in which it is taking place (van der Eijk & Schmitt 2007). The former expectation goes back to Campbell’s (1966) seminal work on “surge and decline” and the subsequent body of literature on the second-order elections model (Reif & Schmitt 1980) suggested for European Parliament and other less important elections. By focusing on the salience of the election we expect to see different patterns on voting behavior which are not so much a result of individual voter characteristics (such as their religion and social class, party identification, or issue concerns), but of the relative importance of an election. The latter should affect in particular the prevalence of strategic vs sincere voting patterns (e.g. van der Eijk & Franklin 1996). This focus is in accordance with ongoing research about the micro-level foundations of the vote in “low stimulus” elections (e.g. Hobolt &Spoon 2012; Schmitt et al. forthcoming).The political climate context, then, refers to the timing of a less important election in the national electoral cycle, to the structure of political competition and the relative strength of a particular party in different political arenas (van der Eijk & Franklin 1996). More recent work also includes other possible contextual mediators such as the electoral system, the economy and ideological polarisation (e.g. Schmitt, Segatti & van der Eijk forthcoming).

The second one is about patterns of political representation in relation to the importance of the election. Is issue congruence higher or lower in less important elections, and why? The papers in this area should rely on the political representation literature (Miller & Stokes 1963; Powell 2004), in particular on the responsible party model (e.g. Thomassen & Schmitt 1999) and the alternative claim that representation works from above (Esaiasson & Holmberg 1996). Overall, we seek empirical evidence on whether there are different patterns of representation conditional upon the types elections: Are bottom-up processes (which obviously include a populist vision of democracy) more accurate for “low stimulus” elections because there is less at stake?

Based on these two broader research avenues, we invite contributions which will focus on one or more of the following research topics:

(1) The interplay of voters and parties regarding the EU dimension. Possible contributions could emphasize the evolution of public opinion towards the process of the European integration and EU issues as well as the stances adopted by parties on this question and investigate if and how new political alliances between the two groups based on the EU related political conflicts did/will emerge. Our main research question here is whether the politicisation of the EU dimension (e.g Hooghe, Marks & Wilson 2002; Rohrschneider & Whitefield 2016) affects party alignments in European elections or rather contributes to a wholesale reconfiguration of national party systems and party competition. Are EU attitudes still orthogonally related to the libertarian-authoritarian component of the left-right conflict (Hooghe and Marks 2009; Kriesi et al. 2012; Teperoglou & Tsatsanis 2011)? Does Europe remain an independent axis of political competition (Bakker et al. 2012; Hix 1999) or is this changing as a result of the politicization process (Schmitt 2017)?

(2) In relation to the first main research avenue of the proposed workshop, we particularly welcome papers which address the question of a possible Europeanisation of national electoral politics: the original approach understood European Parliament elections as second-order national elections (Reif & Schmitt 1980). The hypotheses of the SOE model are still corroborated (Schmitt & Teperoglou 2015) despite the growing salience of the EU issues both in the last EP election of 2014 as well as in national elections. Nevertheless, we can observe that the complimentary process – namely, that EU level electoral processes affect national politics – gains relevance. One such repercussion is the likely spill-over of low turnout levels from European Parliament to national elections (Dinas & Riera 2017; Schmitt & van der Eijk 2007; Schmitt, van der Eijk and Prosser forthcoming). Another is the consensual style of party politics within the EP which might have an impact on shrinking ideological and policy distances in national politics (van der Brug & van der Eijk 2007; for an opposite account see Schmitt 2017). Here we welcome contributions focusing on the spill-over effects from EP to national elections (e.g van der Brug & de Vreese 2016).

(3) Euroscepticism in the party systems of the EU: we invite papers which focus on the evolution of public opinion about European integration and the European institutions in a diachronic and comparative perspective. Do European voters reject the European project itself or are they rather critical about specific aspects of European integration? Is the ‘sleeping giant’ (van der Eijk& Franklin 2007) still sleeping or has the economic crisis and associated developments like mass migration or the BREXIT verdict in Britain triggered a change of attitudes that precipitates the politicization of the EU divide and the emergence of a transnational cleavage (Hooghe & Marks 2018)? Finally, following the study by van Elsas et al. (2016) another research question is whether there are indeed particular varieties of Euroscepticism.

(4) The evolution of the European party system: in the years since the onset of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe national elections in many member-countries (e.g Greece and Spain) provoked electoral breakthroughs of new or formerly minor parties. These elections have sometimes been referred to as ‘earthquake elections’ (with the most prominent example here the Greek double elections of 2012, see Teperoglou& Tsatsanis 2014) which signified the end of the traditional two-party system. We invite papers which analyze whether and how national party systems in different member-countries are affected by the politicization process.

(5) The weight of Europe in parties' communication strategies: we welcome papers which seek to investigate the campaign of the parties and their reference to the European integration process. An important research question here is whether the European political arena is more or less salient in the traditional (e.g papers, TV) means of political communication or in the new social media (e.g Nulty et al. 2016).

(6) Last but not least: we are interested in papers that are focusing on referendums over EU issues that took place in Europe over the last years (e.g Hobolt 2006) with special emphasis on the BREXIT referendum in Britain.

The significance of the proposed workshop is multifaceted. Firstly, the contributions will test whether the recent growth in importance of the EU dimension of electoral competition constitutes the base of a new ideological cleavage and leads to a socio-political realignment. Secondly, the workshop will provide further insights to the dimensionality of the EU space. Thirdly, it will place the current politicisation of EU integration into a diachronic and comparative perspective. Overall, by focusing on possible linkages and interactions of the different actors involved the workshop will provide a thorough (re-) evaluation of the quality of electoral democracy in the EU.

Bakker, R. Jolly, S. & Polk, J. (2012) “Complexity in the European party space: Exploring dimensionality with experts”, European Union Politics, 13(2): 219-245.
Braun, D. &Schmitt, H. “Different emphases, same position? The Election Manifestos of Political Parties in the EU Multi-Level Electoral System Compared”, forthcoming R&R
Campbell, A. (1966) “Surge and Decline: A Study of Electoral Change”, in A. Campbell, P. E. Converse, W. E. Miller and. D. E. Stokes (eds.), Elections and the Political Order. New York: Wiley: 40-62.
Dinas, El. & Riera, P. (2017) “Do European Parliament Elections Impact National Party System Fragmentation?”, Comparative Political Studies, Published Online 20 June.
Elsas, E., van der Brug, W. & Hakhverdian, A. (2016) “United against a common foe? The nature and origins of euroscepticism among left-wing and right-wing voters”, West European Politics 39(6):1181-1204.
Esaiasson, P. & Holmberg, S. (1996) Representation from Above. Members of Parliament and Representative Democracy in Sweden, Dartmouth Publishing: Aldershot.
Hix, S. (1999) “Dimensions and alignments in European Union politics: Cognitive constraints and partisan responses”, European Journal of Political Research, 35(1): 69-106.
Hobolt, S. (2006) “How Parties Affect Vote Choice in European Integration Referendums”, Party Politics, 12(5): 623‐47.
Hobolt, S. B. & Spoon, J-J. (2012) “Motivating the European voter: Parties, issues and campaigns in European Parliament elections”, European Journal of Political Research, 51:6, 701–727.
Hooghe, L. & Marks, G (2001) Multi-level governance and European integration, Boulder, CO, Rowman & Littlefield.
Hooghe, L., Marks, G & Wilson, C.J. (2002) “Does Left/Right Structure Party Positions on European Integration?”, Comparative Political Studies, 35(8): 965-989.
Hooghe, L. & Marks, G. (2009) “ A Postfunctionalist Theory of European Integration: From Permissive Consensus to Constraining Dissensus”, British Journal of Political Science, 39(01): 1-23.
Hooghe, L. & Marks, G (2018) “Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage”, Journal of European Public Policy, 25(1).
Kriesi, H., Grande, E., Dolezal, M. et al. (2012) Political Conflict in Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lipset, S.M. & Rokkan, S. (1967) Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross National Perspectives. New York, Free Press.
Miller, W. E. & Stokes, D. E. (1963) “Constituency influence in congress”, American Political Science Review, 57 (1): 45-56.
Nulty, P., Theocharis ,Y. Popa, S., Parnet , O & Benoit, K. (2016) “Social Media and Political Communication in the 2014 Elections to the European Parliament”, Electoral Studies, 44: 429-444.
Powell, G. B. jr. (2004). “Political representation in comparative politics”, Annual Review of Political Science, 7: 273–296.
Reif, K. & Schmitt, H. (1980) “Nine second-order national elections; a conceptual framework for the analyses of European election results”, European Journal of Political Research, 8(3): 3–44.
Rohrschneider, R. & Whitefield, S. (2016) “Responding to growing European Union-skepticism? The stances of political parties toward European integration in Western and Eastern Europe following the financial crisis”, European Union Politics, 17(1):138-61.
Schmitt, H. (2017)“Die Positionen der politischen Parteien im europäischen Parteiensystem. Ein Vergleich ihrer Entwicklung zwischen 2004 und 2014”, in von Carsten Koschmieder (ed) Parteien, Parteiensysteme und politische Orientierungen, Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag: 133-153.
Schmitt, H. & Teperoglou, E. (2015) “The 2014 European Parliament Elections in Southern Europe: Second-Order or Critical Elections?”, South European Society and Politics, 20 (3): 287-309.
Schmitt, H. & Teperoglou, E. (2018) “Voting behavior in multi-level electoral systems”, in Fisher, J., Fieldhouse, E., Franklin, M., Gibson, R., Cantijoch, M.& Wlezien, Chr. The Routledge Handbook of Elections, Voting Behavior and Public Opinion, Abingdon: Routledge: 232-243.
Schmitt, H., Braun, D., Sanz, A. & Teperoglou, E. “Micro-Foundations of Second-order Election Theory: A Theoretical Reconstruction and Empirical Test”, forthcoming.
Schmitt, H., Segatti, P. & van der Eijk, C. (eds) Consequences of Context. How the social, political and economic environment affects citizens’ electoral behavior. Book manuscript (under revision).
Schmitt, H., van der Eijk, C. and Prosser, Ch. (2017) “Prelude to the General Election? The 2014 European Parliament election and its spill-over to the 2015 General Election”, University of Manchester: unpublished ms.
Teperoglou, E. & Tsatsanis, E. (2014) “Dealignment, de-legitimation and the implosion of the two-party system in Greece: The earthquake election of 6 May 2012” , Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, 24 (2): 222-242.
Teperoglou, E. and Tsatsanis, Ε. (2011) “A new divide? The impact of globalization on national party systems”, West European Politics, 34 (6): 1207–1228.
Thomassen, J. & Schmitt, H. (1999) (eds) Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
van der Brug, W. & van der Eijk, C. (eds) (2007) European Elections and Domestic Politics: Lessons from the Past and Scenarios for the Future, Southbend: University of Notre Dame Press.
van der Brug, W. & De Vreese, C. (eds) (2016) Unintended Consequences of European Parliamentary Elections, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
van der Eijk, C. & Franklin, M. (1996) Choosing Europe? The European Electorate and National Politics in the Face of the Union, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.
van der Eijk, C. & Franklin, M. (2007) “The Sleeping Giant: Potential for Political Mobilization of Disaffection in Europe”, in van der Brug, W. & van der Eijk, C. (eds) European Elections and Domestic Politics: Lessons from the Past and Scenarios for the Future. University of Notre Dame Press, 189-208.
van der Eijk, C. & Schmitt, H. (2007) (eds) The Multilevel Electoral System of the EU, MZES.

Paper List

Title Details
A Fistful of Followers: the Resilience of the Second-Order Campaign Model in EP Elections in Bailout Countries View Paper Details
Challenges to Democracy in Europe: Declining Political Trust, Declining Turnout and their Impact on Satisfaction with Democracy in Multi-Level Political Systems View Paper Details
Changing Tides? Voting Behaviour in the 2014 European Parliament Elections and the Second-Order Election Model View Paper Details
Does EMU Affect Clarity of Responsibility in Domestic Economic Voting? An Experimental Analysis View Paper Details
Economic Crisis and Renationalisation of the EU Governance System: Do Parties Respond to Increasing Euroscepticism and Nationalism Among Citizens by Getting Back Control? View Paper Details
Electoral Competition in the European Union View Paper Details
EU Support in Ordinary and Extraordinary Times: Economic Crisis or Crisis of Political Trust? View Paper Details
European Integration versus Russian Euroscepticism: Public Support for the European Union in the Eastern Partnership Countries View Paper Details
Europeanisation of Parties? Evaluating Policy Convergence and Divergence of Europarties' Members, 1979–2019 View Paper Details
Exploring Congruence in Europe: A Comparative Approach View Paper Details
External Borders and Internal Freedoms: Did the Refugee Crisis Cause a Backlash Against a Borderless Europe? View Paper Details
From One Crisis to Another: How Transnational Conflict Lines Shape the European Parliament View Paper Details
Living Apart Together? The Multilevel Organisation of Political Parties in an EU Context View Paper Details
Party Competition in the EU Multilevel Electoral System: How Does Strategic Party Behaviour Impact on Parties’ Positions towards the EU? View Paper Details
Realignment and Generational Replacement in the Netherlands? View Paper Details
Running In Spite of Themselves: Assessing the Impact of Fringe MEP Careers on National Political Party Successes in Europe View Paper Details
The (De)politicising Public Communication of Parties on European Integration View Paper Details
The Effect of the Euro Crisis on Public Support for European Integration in Eurozone Countries: a Multilevel Analysis View Paper Details
The Giant is Not Sleeping Any More: How Populism and the European Divide Interact to Create a New Dimension of Political Competition View Paper Details
The Impact of European Parliament Election Timing on Electoral Support for Government and Protest Parties View Paper Details
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