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

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Publicattitudes towards the European Union (EU) have become increasingly importantover time. This especially since the process of European integration has becomewidely considered as a political process affected by attitudinal fluctuations.Higher levels of public support contribute to the democratic legitimisation ofthe EU, as the European public should be considered as the only source ofdemocratic legitimacy. The EU as an object should not, however, be empiricallyapproached as a singular entity, hence guidelines from system support theoryare used to approach the EU as a multidimensional political object divided intoseparate system important elements, towards which public attitudes aredirected. This approach considers the common understanding that the Europeanpublic differs in their evaluations of the different elements of the EU.Despite the vast amount of literature that has focused on individual-leveldeterminants of EU attitudes, there is still a lack of macro-level studiesincluding both a longitudinal and cross-sectional perspective. The researchproblem that this study seeks to answer, therefore, centres on explaining thevaried levels of public support for the EU within the EU area. This studyidentifies the underlying national contextual-level determinants for thevariations in public support for the EU within and between countries over time.

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

 Public attitudes towards the EU varyextensively both within countries as well as across the EU area. Connectingcountry levels of public support to national level circumstances confirms theargument that public attitudes towards the EU are formed within the nationallevel contexts. Therefore, what the European public thinks about the EU doesnot appear to be directly related to what the EU is actually doing. Theunderstanding that the country levels of public support are prone tofluctuation over time, based on national circumstances, contributes to anunstable foundation for the future of European integration. As the EU has beenconsidered to have been in an almost constant state of crisis since the start ofthe global recession in 2008, this should be regarding as a worrying sign forthe future system persistence capabilities of the EU. 

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-951-765-934-5
Electronic ISBNs978-951-765-935-2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Keywords

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

Cite this