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Europeans and the European Community: the dynamics of public support for European integration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2009

Richard C. Eichenberg
Associate Professor of Political Science and director of the International Relations Program at Tufts University.
Russell J. Dalton
Professor and Chair in the Department of Politics and Society, University of California, Irvine.
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Europeans evaluate the European Community (EC) according to its economic performance, political salience, and role in international relations. During the last two decades their measured attitudes toward European integration warmed especially when inflation rates fell, as the EC share of the country's trade expanded, when EC elections and referenda increased attention to the community, and to some extend during periods when East-West relations were relaxed. Europeans did not vary their support according to their countries' shares of the Brussels budget. Thus, notwithstanding Denmark's 1992 rejection of the Maastricht treaty and the end of the cold war, recent EC reforms that increase monetary stability, intra-European trade and political attention are all likely to maintain or increase citizen support for the EC. These findings result from a model that blends comparative political economy with international relations in one of the first applications of pooled cross-sectional and time-series analysis to the comparative study of public opinion.

Copyright © The IO Foundation 1993

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Earlier versions of this article were presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, 29 August–2 September 1990 and to a conference entitled “The 1992 Project and the Future of European Integration,” Florida State University, Tallahassee. We also benefited from lively discussion in seminars of the International Relations Research Group at the Berlin Science Center and the Study Group on European Integration and Domestic Policymaking in the Center for European Studies, Harvard University. We warmly thank Drusilla Brown, Thomas Cusack, Geoffrey Garrett, Wolf-Dieter Eberwein, Jeffrey Frieden, Robert Keohane, Paulette Kurzer, Andrew Moravcsik, Robert D. Putnam, James Ray, Dale Smith, Etel Solingen, and Bernhard Wessels for their comments and suggestions. We are also grateful to Michael Don Ward for sharing his data on East-West conflict and to Jay P. Greene for research assistance.

1 For this view, see Lindberg, Leon and Scheingold, Stuart, Europe's Would-be Polity (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970)Google Scholar.

2 For different interpretations of the role of governmental and business elites, see Moravcsik, Andrew, “Negotiating the Single European Act: National Interests and Conventional Statecraft in the European Community”, International Organization 45 (Winter 1991), pp. 1956CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Sandholtz, Wayne and Zysman, John, “1992: Recasting the European Bargain”, World Politics 42 (10 1989), pp. 130CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For broader theoretical analyses of the origins and content of the SEA, see Garrett, Geoffrey, “International Cooperation and Institutional Choice: The European Community's Internal Market”, International Organization 46 (Spring 1992), pp. 533–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Garrett, Geoffrey and Weingast, Barry, “Ideas, Interests, and Institutions: Constructing the EC's Internal Market”, paper presented at the National Bureau for Economic Research conference on political economics, Cambridge, Mass., 15–16 11 1991Google Scholar.

3 Smith, Dale and Wanke, Jürgen, “Completing the Single European Market: An Analysis of the Impact on the Member States”, American Journal of Political Science 27 (05 1993), pp. 529–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Williams, Shirley, “Sovereignty and Accountability in the European Community”, in Keohane, Robert and Hoffmann, Stanley, eds. The New European Community: Decision-making and Institutional Change (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991), pp. 155–76Google Scholar.

5 The signal work on the subject is Putnam, Robert D., “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-level Games”, International Organization 42 (Summer 1988), pp. 427–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Sandholtz and Zysman, “1992”; and Evans, Peter, Jacobson, Harold, and Putnam, Robert, eds., Double-edged Diplomacy: International Bargaining and Domestic Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993)Google Scholar.

6 For an analysis of support for integration at the individual level, see Inglehart, Ronald, “Public Opinion and Regional Integration”, in Lindberg, Leon and Scheingold, Stuart, eds., Regional Integration: Theory and Research (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970)Google Scholar; Inglehart, Ronald, The Silent Revolution (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977)Google Scholar; Hewstone, Miles, Understanding Attitudes to the European Community (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)Google Scholar; Shepard, Robert, Public Opinion and European Integration (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1975)Google Scholar; and Zentrum für Europäische Umfragenanalysen und Studien (ZEUS), Structure in European Attitudes (Mannheim, Germany: ZEUS, University of Mannheim, 1990)Google Scholar. For a discussion of the conceptual and empirical differences between individual and macro models of opinion, see MacKuen, Michael, Erikson, Robert, and Stimson, James, “Macropartisanship”, American Political Science Review 83 (12 1989), pp. 1125–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Ginsberg, Roy, The Foreign Policy Actions of the European Community (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1989)Google Scholar. For a discussion of Europe's future options in the fields of foreign and security policy, see Kupchan, Clifford and Kupchan, Charles, “Concerts, Collective Security, and the Future of Europe”, International Security 16 (Summer 1991), pp. 114–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Ullman, Richard, Securing Europe (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991)Google Scholar.

8 See Lewis-Beck, Michael, Economics and Elections (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988)Google Scholar; and Norpoth, Helmut, Lewis-Beck, Michael, and Lafay, Dominique, eds., Economics and Politics (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991)Google Scholar.

9 For example, in a recent opinion survey conducted by the EC Commission, more than a majority of Europeans favored giving policy authority to the EC rather than to national authorities in such economic and technical areas as currency regulations, the value added tax (VAT), science and research, foreign aid, and environmental protection. Only about one-third of respondents favored giving the community competence in the health, social, and education fields; see Dalton, Russell J. and Eichenberg, Richard, “A People's Europe: Citizen Support for the 1992 Project and Beyond”, in Smith, Dale and Ray, James, eds., The 1992 Project and the Future of Integration in Europe (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1992), pp. 7391Google Scholar. Similarly, Dalton and Duval find that 60 percent of British news coverage of community events between 1972 and 1979 involved economic issues; see Dalton, Russell J. and Duval, Robert, “The Political Environment and Foreign Policy Opinions: British Attitudes Toward European Integration, 1972–1979”, British Journal of Political Science 16 (01 1986), pp. 113–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

10 Shepard, , Public Opinion and European Integration, p. 124Google Scholar.

11 Dalton and Duval, “The Political Environment and Foreign Policy Opinions”.

12 The best survey of the literature remains Lewis-Beck, Economics and Elections. The most recent applications and models are found in Norpoth, Lewis-Beck, and Lafay, Economics and Politics.

13 Lewis-Beck shows that in some nations inflation is more important in explaining government popularity while in other nations, unemployment rates or national income is more influential. These patterns might reflect differing national sensitivities to certain economic conditions (the Germans' historic concern with inflation) or simply the different mix of economic problems facing each nation. In the case of the EC, we have a single political institution that is common across all nations. In this case, statistical methods can determine whether a model postulating common economic effects is supported by the data. For one summary of these differential effects, see Lewis-Beck, , Economics and Elections, p. 11Google Scholar.

14 This point is captured nicely by Nye, who observes that “neo-functionalists prefer a strategy of increasing policy interactions and assume that identities and loyalties will gradually follow interests and expectations in clustering around (and supporting) institutions associated with policy integration”. See Nye, Joseph, Peace in Parts: Integration and Conflict in Regional Organization (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971), p. 44Google Scholar. For additional treatments of the effects of transactions and interdependence on the process of integration, see Haas, Ernest, The Uniting of Europe (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1958)Google Scholar; and Deutsch, Karl, Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1957)Google Scholar. For an excellent review and evaluation of this literature, see Keohane, Robert and Nye, Joseph, “International Interdependence and Integration”, in Greenstein, Fred and Polsby, Nelson, eds., Handbook of Political Science, vol. 8, International Relations (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1975), pp. 363414Google Scholar.

15 For a detailed explanation of the community's budget and finances, see “Europe's Budgetary Blues”, The Economist, 16 October 1982, pp. 80–81; and “EC Budget: The Money Game”, The Economist, 28 July 1990, p. 40.

16 We realize that there are many indirect benefits that accrue through EC membership, such as the trade benefits discussed above. We have chosen a more specific measure of benefits, however, because it both reflects the political debate of the 1980s and is a reasonably “hard” measure of benefits. We also tested other measures of gain and loss from the EC budget, including the absolute net return from the EC budget and each nation's share of benefits from the budget. Like the measure reported below, none of these measures is significantly associated with citizen support of the EC.

17 Dalton and Duval, “The Political Environment and Foreign Policy Opinions“.

18 Ibid. Of course, the impact of events need not be positive; if our data were to be extended to 1992, we would expect the Danish referendum in that year to exhibit a slight negative effect.

19 Eichenberg, Richard, “The Western Alliance: A Three-Legged Stool?” in Eichenberg, Richard, ed., Drifting Together or Apart? (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1986), pp. 1415Google Scholar.

20 We are grateful to Michael Don Ward for providing these data, which represent a combined data set of World Event Interaction Survey (WEIS) and Conflict and Peace Databank (COPDAB) events data. Specifically, “net conflict” is a quarterly aggregation calculated from all conflictual and cooperative behaviors during the quarter. We also tested other variants of this variable, including measures of U.S. net conflict and absolute conflict and cooperation measures. The variable reported here produces the strongest association with support for Europe. For additional details on the data set and the sources from which it is drawn, see Rajmaira, Sheen and Ward, Michael Don, “Evolving Foreign Policy Norms: Reciprocity in the Superpower Triad”, International Studies Quarterly 34 (12 1990), pp. 457–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 See Stimson, James, “Regression Across Time and Space”, American Journal of Political Science 29 (11 1985), pp. 914–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Sayrs, Lois, Pooled Time Series Analysis (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

22 Recent applications include: Pollins, Brian, “Does Trade Still Follow the Flag?American Political Science Review 83 (06 1989), pp. 465–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Zuk, Gary and Thompson, William, “The Post-coup Military Spending Question”, American Political Science Review 76 (03 1982), pp. 6074CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Alvarez, R. Michael, Garrett, Geoffrey, and Lange, Peter, “Government Partisanship, Labor Organization, and Macroeconomic Performance”, American Political Science Review 85 (06 1991), pp. 539–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Clarke, Harold and Dutt, Nitish, “Measuring Value Change in Western Industrialized Societies: The Impact of Unemployment”, American Political Science Review 85 (09 1991), pp. 905–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For an application to economic models of voting, see Lewis-Beck, Michael and Mitchell, Glenn E., “Does Liverpool Matter? Local Economic Conditions and How Voters Perceive the State of the Economy”, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, 29 August–2 09 1990Google Scholar.

23 See Stimson, “Regression Across Time and Space”; and Sayrs, Pooled Time Series Analysis.

24 Stimson, , “Regression Across Time and Space”, pp. 925–29Google Scholar. As Stimson so clearly shows, large cross-sectional differences in the level of the dependent variable can produce bias due to autocorrelation, since the residuals of some cross-sections will lie uniformly above or below the regression line.

25 The GLS/ARMA model is fully described in Stimson, , “Regression Across Time and Space”, pp. 926–29Google Scholar; and Sayrs, , Pooled Time Series Analysis, pp. 3638Google Scholar.

26 The full data series for this question are published in the appendixes of the semiannual Eurobarometer reports. See Commission of the European Communities (CEC), Eurobarometer: Public Opinion in the European Community (Brussels: CEC, various years). Other questions are asked for a more limited time period, but they yield similar results because the questions are very highly correlated at the aggregate level. For example, the correlation between the “good thing” question examined here and a separate question that asks if respondents would “feel sorry” were the community to end is 86 for the time points when both are available (N = 181); the correlation between the “good thing” question and a question asking if respondents “favor integration” is 0.80 (N = 191).

27 For a case study of the specification and diagnosis of pooled models, see Stimson, , “Regression Across Time and Space”, pp. 929–45Google Scholar. It should be noted that most software products do not produce the “by cross-section” diagnosis of error required for this type of analysis, and the results can be very misleading. For example, “naive” OLS versions of our own model (uncorrected for cross-sectional differences and/or autocorrelated error) produce pooled autocorrelation functions on the order of 0.70 to 0.80. Autocorrelation of error exceeded 0.55 in four of the eight cross-sections and was less than 0.30 in only one cross-section. Naive models also have much higher and disparate error variances than the model presented here. These diagnostic analyses were conducted using the POOL program in the MICROCRUNCH statistical package distributed by SofTex Micro Systems in Houston, Texas.

28 Of course, it is also entirely possible that European citizens are inherently more concerned about inflation or that they share the higher priority placed on antiinfiationary policy that European governments—and the EC through the EMS—have exhibited since the late 1970s.

29 The effect of these economic variables, and especially of the inflation rate, is quite robust for different measures and time periods. For example, analysis of change rates in the economic variables yields a pattern that is very similar to that shown in Table 1: the inflation rate is the strongest predictor, with (change in) unemployment and GDP far less significant. In addition, the results are largely the same when the entire time period is divided into subperiods. In both the preand post–1981 periods, for example, the inflation rate shows a significant impact on support for the EC; the single difference is that GDP growth has a stronger impact in the post–1981 period than it has for the entire period (suggesting that the post–1981 recovery in Europe did indeed have a positive impact on support for the community). Finally, we have extended these analyses using indicators of perceptions of economic conditions that are collected in consumer confidence surveys sponsored by the EC Commission. The latter analyses show the same pattern of coefficients for economic conditions, trade, East-West conflict, and national traditions. For the latter analyses, see Dalton, Russell and Eichenberg, Richard C., “Economic Evaluations and Citizen Support for European Integration”, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., 28 August–1 09 1991Google Scholar.

30 This calculation is based on aggregate EC exports. Of course, if applied to individual nations' export profiles, the results would be different. Nonetheless, since all EC members have increased intra-EC exports relative to total exports, the general point remains.

31 The Danish and Irish referenda on Maastricht occurred after the time period covered in these data and analyses. In the conclusions, we return to the apparent anomaly of the Danish defeat of the Maastricht referendum.

32 The negative coefficient of the East-West variable is more significant in models using annual measures of economic variables. Since the overall fit of the annual models is slightly better as well, that specification suggests that the inverse relationship between East-West conflict and support for the EC is stronger than the results shown here. In effect, we consider these estimates of the impact of East-West conflict to be conservative.

33 Specialists in the pooled time series model might differ on the necessity of including the French dummy. As the table shows, the coefficient is only modestly significant. Yet the “predummy” diagnostics for France yielded a larger mean error, presumably because of the upward surge in French support during the 1980s. In any case, none of the other coefficients in the model is affected by the treatment of the French cross-section.

34 Indeed, the irony of Mrs. Thatcher's departure was that her resistance to European integration became a domestic political liability and contributed to her downfall.

35 In addition to the scholarly sources cited in footnote 1, see the interesting reportage by Krause, Axel, Inside the New Europe (New York: Cornelia and Michael Bessie Books, 1991)Google Scholar.

36 See Putnam, “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics”; and Evans, Jacobson, and Putnam, Double-edged Diplomacy.

37 Sandholtz and Zysman, “1992”.

38 Putnam, , “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics”, pp. 454–56Google Scholar. In a related work, Jeffry Frieden notes that the support of domestic coalitions for the exchange-rate mechanism of the EMS derived in part from the broader value that they attach to EC membership. In a conclusion that resonates with our own, Frieden also notes that the coalition in support of the EMS was broadened by the growth of intra-EC trade. See Frieden, Jeffry, “European Monetary Union: A Political Economy Perspective”, paper presented at a Social Science Research Council conference on Liberalization and Foreign Policy, Ballyvaughan, Ireland, 9–11 07 1992Google Scholar.

39 This observation is based on a survey measure of consumer confidence collected by the European Community. The measure includes perceptions of the general economic situation of the country and of households as well as perceptions of inflationary trends. See European Economy, suppl. B (March 1992), pp. 9–11.

40 For an analytical exposition of the political economy of international finance, including the trade-off between exchange-rate stability and fiscal policy autonomy, see Frieden, Jeffry A., “Invested Interests: The Politics of National Economic Policies in a World of Global Finance”, International Organization 45 (Autumn 1991), pp. 425–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For an application to European monetary union, see Jeffry Frieden and Barry Eichengreen, “The Political Economy of European Monetary Integration: An Analytical Introduction”, Economics and Politics, forthcoming; and Frieden, “European Monetary Union”.

41 ZEUS, Structure in European Attitudes.

42 Commission of the European Communities, Eurobarometer, pp. 3038Google Scholar.

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