Public Attitudes Towards the European Union: A study explaining the variations in public support towards the European Union within and between countries over time

G4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Thomas Karv
Publisher: Åbo Akademi University Press
Place: Åbo
Publication year: 2019
Number of pages: 370
ISBN: 978-951-765-934-5
eISBN: 978-951-765-935-2


attitudes towards the European Union (EU) have become increasingly important
over time. This especially since the process of European integration has become
widely considered as a political process affected by attitudinal fluctuations.
Higher levels of public support contribute to the democratic legitimisation of
the EU, as the European public should be considered as the only source of
democratic legitimacy. The EU as an object should not, however, be empirically
approached as a singular entity, hence guidelines from system support theory
are used to approach the EU as a multidimensional political object divided into
separate system important elements, towards which public attitudes are
directed. This approach considers the common understanding that the European
public differs in their evaluations of the different elements of the EU.
Despite the vast amount of literature that has focused on individual-level
determinants of EU attitudes, there is still a lack of macro-level studies
including both a longitudinal and cross-sectional perspective. The research
problem that this study seeks to answer, therefore, centres on explaining the
varied levels of public support for the EU within the EU area. This study
identifies the underlying national contextual-level determinants for the
variations in public support for the EU within and between countries over time.

research problem is approached by deploying both descriptive and statistical
analyses. Survey data provided by Eurobarometer is used to measure country
levels of public support, while Eurostat provides the main part of the national
contextual-level factors used to explain country-level variations. In this
study, the effects on public support from several different types of contextual-level
factors are accounted for, including economic performance, democratic culture,
external pressure and the EU-relation of the 28 member states. Eight different system
elements of the EU were also identified as being of importance for the system
persistence capabilities of the EU, divided into three main system components.
Hence, this study analyses the determinants of public support for European
integration policies, the EU regime and the European political community.
Furthermore, this study shows that the within countries variations in public
support are predicted, to a large extent, by the economic performance of
countries, while the variations between countries are more related to cultural
and demographic differences across the EU area.

Public attitudes towards the EU vary
extensively both within countries as well as across the EU area. Connecting
country levels of public support to national level circumstances confirms the
argument that public attitudes towards the EU are formed within the national
level contexts. Therefore, what the European public thinks about the EU does
not appear to be directly related to what the EU is actually doing. The
understanding that the country levels of public support are prone to
fluctuation over time, based on national circumstances, contributes to an
unstable foundation for the future of European integration. As the EU has been
considered to have been in an almost constant state of crisis since the start of
the global recession in 2008, this should be regarding as a worrying sign for
the future system persistence capabilities of the EU.


Comparative research, European Union (EU), Finland, European integration, public opinion, Quantitative research

Last updated on 2020-08-07 at 04:52