Euroscepticism (Part II): Understanding National Differences

Analysis by Louis VIS

As explained in Part I and despite first being used in the 1980s, the term ‘Euroscepticism’ only came into common usage after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. Euroscepticism is a dynamic and complex term to describe negative public attitudes towards European integration, and it can be divided into two sub-groups (Vasilopoulou 2013). ‘Soft’ Euroscepticism describes the views of those who disagree with certain policies but remain in favour of European integration, whilst ‘hard’ Euroscepticism describes views disagreeing with, or even opposing, the whole project of European integration (Taggart and Szczerbiak 2002). The British Conservative party could be characterised as the former whilst the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) as the latter. In this second of three articles on Euroscepticism, we will be analysing and comparing Euroscepticism levels across all European Member States over the last decade using date from our own research. Doing so should enable us to draw a crude geographical picture of public support towards further European unification and ultimately Euroscepticism.

Based on data from the European Election Survey (EES), this research will be using European unification as the dependent variable (or y-variable) and European Member States as the independent (or x-) variable. By creating a standard multiple regression model, I built three different graphs representing the level of support towards further European unification in all EU Member States for 2004, 2009 and 2014. Because the dependent variable is scaled from 1 to 10; the closer to 1 a Member States scores, the more its citizens will believe that European unification had been pushed too far. On the other hand, as the results for Member States get closer to 10, residents from these Member States will be more likely to believe that European unification should be pushed further. The charts are in the appendix below.

Looking at those graphs  our results suggest that, on average – and other things being equal -, the United Kingdom (UK) is most opposed to further European unification and thus Europe’s most Eurosceptic Member State in all three years analysed. Although it may seem that in 2009, Latvia is actually found to be more Eurosceptic than the UK, the result is statistically insignificant at the 0.05 level and thus cannot be considered accurate enough for to draw any conclusions from. Furthermore, the results also show that newer and Southern European Member States seem to be most supportive of further European unification and thus less Eurosceptic. Indeed, in 2004, Eastern Member States that had just joined the European Union (EU) have some of the highest levels of support for further European unification, whilst in 2007 Bulgaria and Romania become the Member States most supportive of further unification. The same is true for 2014 although it was found that Croatia, the latest country to join the EU, also displays high levels of support. The big surprise is that even those countries most affected by the financial crisis, namely Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain and Cyprus do not seem to face the increase in Euroscepticism which may be expected alongside austerity. Although levels of public support for unification and integration did drop during and after the financial crisis, they remain some of the highest in the EU.

Whilst the data shows that the UK is indeed Europe’s most Eurosceptic Member State, Euroscepticism cannot be fully understood without analysing and understanding it from an individual perspective, which will be done in the third and final article on the subject. Nonetheless with an EU referendum on the way in the UK, the conclusions are worrying…

Appendix: Graph highlighting individual Member States’ support for further European unification in 2004, 2008 and 2012 respectively:

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Figure 1: Graph for 2004 – by Louis Vis


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Figure 2: Graph for 2009 – by Louis Vis
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Figure 3: Graph for 2014 – by Louis Vis

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