Public Support for the European Economic Governance during the Great Recession

Friday, 3 July 2015: 2:15 PM-3:45 PM
TW1.3.04 (Tower One)
Kristel Jacquier, Université PARIS 1, PARIS, France
Trust in the European Union has significantly declined during the Great Recession. This leads one to believe that citizens consider the European Union as a relevant level of governance when crisis occurs.As previously mentioned in the literature (Hobolt & Tilley, 2014), since citizens do not identify a 'European government', when they blame the EU for poor performance, they might lose trust in the EU as a whole. Therefore, trust is used as a proxy for the value people give to the EU response to the crisis. Focusing on the Eurozone the focus will be on the sovereign debt crisis which started in November 2009.

We build on a large body of work that has studied public support for the EU. Macroeconomic variables such as inflation, growth and intra-EU exports used to be strong predictors of attitudes towards the EU (Anderson and Reichert, 1996; Eichenberg and Dalton, 1993; Gabel and Palmer, 1995). Since the early 1990s and especially after the ratification of the Maastricht treaty, the literature has shown that these factors have become less significant (Eichenberg and Dalton, 2007). In fact, it is argued that once the benefits of greater intra-European trade flows and more stable prices are regarded as acquired, European citizens have started considering the redistributive implications of the convergence criteria on national policies, particularly on the different national welfare state models. At the micro level, studies focusing on people’s position in the labour market to explain support for the EU find a strong and robust effect (Gabel and Whitten, 1997; Gabel, 1998). Although the real explanatory variable might not be the objective position but rather the subjective one (Mau, 2005), EU support has been constantly related to favorable position in the labour market and more generally in the society. In the context of the current sovereign debt crisis and its asymmetric economic consequences, we advance the hypothesis that macroeconomic variables could regain influence on citizens’ evaluation. During the sovereign debt crisis, institutions in the Eurozone (mainly the European Council) have had to take measures that might disadvantage the typical ‘winners of European integration’ in certain countries (Kuhn & Stoeckel, 2014). The European Union is no longer evaluated through the benefits of membership but rather on the implications of the economic governance. The most recent literature interact the micro and macro levels to assess the impact on certain segments of the population of adverse economic conditions during the crisis (Gomez, 2014). We use a similar approach on a longer period. 

Using a unique database combining Eurobarometer surveys from 2004 to 2013 the paper questions how uniform the loss in confidence in the EU is. The analysis relies on a fixed effect model in order to control for omitted variables and measurements errors. Therefore within country variation is considered. We use interaction terms to identify the social groups more affected by the macroeconomic conditions. The objective is to highlight a recomposition of the support and identify which socio-political groups remain the core supporters of the EU.

Our preliminary results indicate that unemployment has a strong and significant impact on trust in the European Union during the period considered. Its impact is stronger on students and young Europeans. The amount of public debt significantly decreases trust. It also appears that the intervention of the Troika (the ECB, the European Commission and the IMF) decreases support by 72%. Those results suggest that the interconnection between the economies of the Eurozone became tangible.  And as economic policies go beyond national institutions, citizens blame the EU institutions for the poor macroeconomic performances in the area.




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