Academic journal article Journal of Social Research & Policy

How Deep Should the European Union Be? A Multilevel Test of the Impact of Personal Utility, Perceived National Opportunity and Political Attitudes on the Support for EU Integration

Academic journal article Journal of Social Research & Policy

How Deep Should the European Union Be? A Multilevel Test of the Impact of Personal Utility, Perceived National Opportunity and Political Attitudes on the Support for EU Integration

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article considers the public attitudes towards the further integration of European Union following the two large waves of expansion of 2004 and 2007 and before the deep economic crisis that began at the end of 2008. Testing individual and contextual effects by applying hierarchical linear regression to the set of data of the 2008 European Social Survey, I concluded that a simple instrumental model of euroscepticism is supported while a model of opportunity costs of sovereignty does not hold. In addition to these a model of institutional trust is supported by the data.2

Keywords: Euroscepticism; Support for European Integration; Instrumental Models of Attitudes; Institutional Trust; European Social Survey.

Introduction: the research questions

A large part of the scholarly literature on European integration focuses upon elites and institutions therefore giving a minimized importance to the mass public in determining the international relation configurations (Maier & Rittberger, 2008). The contested nature of topics like integration made the popular attitude towards the issue of depth of integration a critical one regarding the policy makers in the EU countries. This has become clear right before the 2004 and 2007 enlargement waves (when 12 countries joined the EU) and the debates around the newly proposed EU Treaty, when driven by anxious citizens and politicians, researchers of European public opinion have produced a respectable amount of empirical literature on the causes of the opposition or of the support regarding the deepening and broadening of the EU.

In the present study I will approach a theme that is important for the understanding of the dynamics of the EU support: the public attitude towards the further unification of the European Union; I will use it as an operational dimension of euroscepticism or EU support, which has become extremely relevant in the national and international debates during the past years, especially due to the enlargements of 2004 and 2007, but especially due to th e EU constitutional debates of the later years and to the recession in the EU. The assessment of the sources of variation in support of the EU unification, during the failed constitutional referendums and after two main waves of expansion, is important for two reasons: policy relevance and methodology.

In the discussions regarding the policy relevance, those with respect to the unification support form a topic that deserves further research because: 1) The 'permissive consensus' previously recorded (Boomgaarden et al., 2011; Hooghe & Marks, 2005) has waned as the issues and consequences of the integration became evident and contested as subject to internal political competition, i.e. on the occasion of constitutional referendums in countries like Netherlands, France or Ireland. Measurements done previously suggested that the EU citizens had been evaluating the broadening and the deepening of EU based on their anticipated gains and losses (Anderson & Reichert, 1995; Ehin, 2001; Gabel, 1998; Gabel & Palmer, 1995; Lyons, 2007; McLaren, 2007; Tanasoiu & Colonescu, 2008; Christin, 2005; Cichowski, 2000; Hooghe & Marks, 2004, 2005; Lubbers & Scheepers, 2005; Sánchez-Cuenca, 2000) in the older member states as in the candidate countries). In 2008, as the EU constitutional debates got high on the public agenda, the citizens were more able to evaluate the integration, without being based on their more or less informed predictions. 2) The Integration of the EU is not a finished agenda as contemporary debates let us under stand. Further unification has been proposed in the recently failed EU treaty, as well as following the economic crisis which demands, according some sides, increased political integration in order to deal with the fiscal issues and competitiveness problems in the UE. Nevertheless, the capacity of the political elite to cue the public opinion has been radically diminished as euroscepticism has become a major trend in the European public opinion. …

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