Governing parties generally win fewer votes at European Parliament elections than at national electionsmost common explanation for this is that European elections are ‘second order national elections’ acting as mid-term referendums on government performance. This article proposes an alternative, though complementary, explanation: voters defect because governing parties are generally far more pro-European than the typical voter. Additionally, the more the campaign context primes Eurosceptic sentiments, the more likely voters are to turn against governing parties. A multi-level model is used to test these propositions and analyse the effects of individual and contextual factors at the 1999 and 2004 European Parliament elections. Both European and domestic concerns matter to voters; moreover, campaign context plays an important role in shaping vote choices.
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