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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Who's Afraid of TTIP? Attitudes Towards Free Trade in the Context of Politicization of European Integration

European Politics
European Union
Aleksandra Sojka
Universidad de Granada
Aleksandra Sojka
Universidad de Granada
Jorge Diaz Lanchas
European Commission
Federico Steinberg
Universidad Autònoma de Madrid

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement negotiated between the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), generated an unprecedented debate across Europe. Unlike previous EU trade agreements, citizens have become highly polarized on the topic, to the point where negotiations have come to a standstill due to, among other factors, the negative pressure of public opinion in several member states. TTIP supporters claim that the agreement would generate growth, jobs, and increase geopolitical power for the transatlantic axis, while its critics argue that it would inherently alter the state-market relationship, undermining democracy and the European welfare state. In this paper, we aim to develop a better understanding of the TTIP controversy by empirically analysing public opinion attitudes towards free trade in general and the specific agreement in particular. Using recent data from the Eurobarometer, we construct a set of bivariate probit models to check the consistency of these preferences across individuals and disentangle the factors which drive them. By way of different variables that control for the two main lines of argument put forward in the debates regarding the TTIP and free trade, we assess the determinants of citizen’s opinion consistency (or inconsistency) toward both of them. Our results indicate a stronger impact of the values concerning the European integration process than of the factors related to the economic dimension or the envisaged gains from the specific trade agreement. These results contribute towards a better comprehension of the dynamics behind the agreement’s politicization in the context of EU’s multilevel governance.
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