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Popular Euroscepticism and the Depth of European Integration

I rely on the Eurobarometer public opinion surveys to measure popular Euroscepticism.[1] At least once a year since 1972, the Eurobarometer has asked respondents of all EU member states the following question. The wording has varied slightly over the years depending on whether it focused on the EU or its predecessors. The answer categories are 'a good thing', 'neither good nor bad', and 'a bad thing' (as well as 'don't know' and a category for non-responses).

Generally speaking, do you think that (your country's) membership of the European

Community/Common Market/European Union is... ?

I measure popular Euroscepticism as the percentage of citizens considering EU membership 'a bad thing' minus the percentage of citizens considering membership 'a good thing'. This measure takes on the value of —100 if all respondents think positively about the EU, and 100 if all think negatively. A value of 0 indicates that Eurosceptics and Europhiles are equally numerous. In a given year and country, I took the average of the current, the previous, and the following year to obtain less erratic trends. I, finally, measure Euroscepticism in the first year of each reform opportunity.

Figure A4.4 shows the evolution of Euroscepticism across the member states. Three points are worth mentioning. First, what stands out most is that European integration continuous to enjoy majority support across Europe. Only in Sweden and the United Kingdom do we see moments in which Europhiles and Eurosceptics are equally numerous. Second, by and large, the picture is again one of stability. Yet, unlike with the elite level measures of party positions, there is more variation, albeit not revealing a clear trend towards more or less support for integration. Thus, for instance, Swedish citizens have become considerably less and Italians more Eurosceptic over time. Indeed, as the academic literature highlights, what has changed in the recent decades of integration, compared to earlier years, is not so much the level of Euroscepticism but rather the fact that it has become politically consequential (Hooghe and Marks 2008; van Ingelgom 2014).

Finally, I measure the EU's authority on the basis of the competences enshrined in the EU treaties. There were five important treaty changes between 1984 and 2010: the Single European Act, the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Treaty of Nice, and the Treaty of Lisbon. Each treaty expanded the EU's competences, increased the use of majority voting, and strengthened the EP. I use information from the existing literature on the EU's authority in each policy area, as already shown in Chapter 2 in

Figure 2.1 (Borzel 2005; Leuffen etal. 2013). In order to generate a single measure of the EU's authority at a particular point in time, I take the average depth of integration across all policy areas, following Leuffen and colleagues (2013). Table A4.3 shows the correlations between all explanatory variables.

  • [1] The data come from the Mannheim Eurobarometer Trend File (1970-2002) and subsequentEurobarometer surveys: 58.1, 59.1, 60.1, 61, 62.0, 62.2, 63.4, 64.2, 65.1, 65.2, 66.1, 67.2, 68.1, 69.2,70.1, 71.1, and 73.4. Multiple surveys in a year are averaged.
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