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Euroscepticism and Conservative Electoral Support: How an Asset Became a Liability

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 1998

GEOFFREY EVANS
Affiliation:
Nuffield College, Oxford

Abstract

This article uses the British Election Panel Study to assess the impact of voters' and party positions vis-à-vis European integration on Conservative electoral support between 1992 and 1996. Over this period levels of public support for European integration declined markedly, so that by 1996 the Conservative party was even closer to aggregate public opinion, when compared with its main competitors, than it had been at the time of the 1992 election. However, an analysis of the proximity between individuals' positions on integration and the positions they then attributed to the parties indicates that Conservative divisions over Europe helped turn this potential electoral asset into a liability, leaving the party further from individual voters' own positions than were either of the other two main political contenders. Moreover, as issue proximity on integration predicts voting even when past vote and proximity on other issues are controlled for, it is likely that the European question will have resulted in electoral costs rather than the benefits it could have produced. One implication of these findings is that if the Conservatives hope to do well on this issue they will need to adopt a consistent Eurosceptic line, but such a strategy is unlikely to be easily maintained.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1998 Cambridge University Press

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