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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

Does Politicisation Matter for EU Representation? A Comparison of Four European Parliament Elections

European Politics
European Union
Political Parties
Comparative Perspective
Public Opinion
Sofia Vasilopoulou
University of York
Sofia Vasilopoulou
University of York
Katjana Gattermann
University of Amsterdam

The recent European crisis has been accompanied by the growing politicization of the European Union (EU). The effect of politicisation on the EU’s democratic deficit is contested in academic literature. On the one hand, key thinkers of European integration have considered politicisation to be a key force behind the legitimacy of the European project. On the other hand, given that politicisation is not uniform and tends to be driven by Eurosceptic and -often- radical voices, EU contestation does not necessarily lead to greater EU support and serves as a constraint to the progress of European integration. This paper seeks to advance this debate by empirically testing the effect of EU politicisation on political representation in the European Parliament (EP). We specifically analyse party-voter ideological congruence, i.e. the extent to which parties share the policy preferences of their voters during four EP elections (1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014) on the EU and left-right dimensions. We examine the diverging and often conflicting strategic incentives political parties are faced with in different contexts of EU politicization and how these may be translated into party-voter opinion congruence. We thus contribute to the literature on EU politics and party competition against a background of rising Euroscepticism and citizen dissatisfaction with EU politics and political parties. Our findings point to the limited effect of politicization upon EU representation, bringing new cross-temporal and cross-national empirical evidence to this topic.
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