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ECPR Summer School in Methods & Techniques 2020

The Changing Relationship between Ideological Dimensions and Party Positions on European Integration

Political Competition
Political Parties
Comparative Perspective
Political Ideology
Constantin Schäfer
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Constantin Schäfer
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Daniela Braun
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Hermann Schmitt
Universität Mannheim
Sebastian Popa
Universität Mannheim

Previous research shows that political parties base their stances towards European integration on existing social cleavages and political conflicts (Marks & Wilson 2000). While those positions used to be strongly influenced by a socio-economic conflict dimension (market liberalization vs. controlled economy) in the beginning of the integration process, it is today rather a socio-cultural conflict dimension (libertarian/cosmopolitan vs. authoritarian/nationalist values) that determines how parties position themselves towards European integration (Hooghe et al. 2002; Kriesi et al. 2008; Prosser 2016). But how and why have these relationships changed over time and space? Have critical junctures of the integration process, such as the Maastricht Treaty or the Euro Crisis, significantly altered party competition over Europe? And how have these developments varied between different member states?

In this paper, we argue that as the nature of the unification process changed from an economic cooperation into a genuine political project with Maastricht, party positions on European integration in Western Europe have profoundly realigned: away from an economic towards a cultural conflict (see also Van Elsas & Van der Brug 2015). Moreover, we assume that the pathways of party competition over European have diverged strongly during the Euro Crisis. In the most hard-hit countries in Southern Europe, the economic dimension has experienced an unexpected comeback (see also Otjes & Katsanidou 2017). In Western Europe, on the contrary, the crisis has accelerated the general ‘cultural backlash’ in Western societies (Inglehart & Norris 2016) thereby further strengthening the explanatory power of the cultural dimension.

In our empirical analysis, we shed light onto the changing relationships between party positions on European integration and their underlying ideological conflicts by analyzing electoral manifestos of parties competing in European Parliament elections (Euromanifestos) from 1979-2014. The results bear important implications for our understanding of political competition over Europe in different electoral contexts.
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