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Politicising Europe in European Elections – A Comparative Analysis

European Politics
European Union
Comparative Perspective
European Parliament
Daniela Braun
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Edgar Grande
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Daniela Braun
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Tobias Schwarzbözl
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU

In the last decade, there has been a burgeoning literature on the politicization of Europe. Inspired by post-functionalist integration theory, this literature shows that there has been a substantial amount of politicization of European issues in national integration debates, national election campaigns and national parliamentary debates. Nevertheless, there is a strong focus on the national level, whereas the supranational level is rather neglected. Against this background, this paper aims to explore the context sensitivity of these findings with a specific focus on elections to the European Parliament (EP). Our main assumption is that EP elections provide particularly strong incentives for parties to mobilize on European issues. Hence, we expect even higher levels of politicization there. To compare the level, development and determinants of the politicization of European issues across electoral arenas, we present original data of campaign debates in EP election campaigns between 1994 and 2014 in five EU member states (Austria, France, Germany, UK, Sweden). Two findings stand out: First, we find higher politicization of European issues in European elections compared to national elections. Second, political contestation has been developing in an unexpected way. Most importantly, despite the multiple crises of the European Union, the “Spitzenkandidaten” innovation, and the rise of Eurosceptic parties, in 2014 the level of politicization of European issues was lowest among the five elections covered by our study.
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