RETHINKING EUROPE

The Eurozone crisis forces us to reconsider the conventional wisdom that “Europe” has little effect on national electoral politics. MAPLE’s central goal is to analyse the degree of politicisation of the European issue in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain in 2000-2017, and its consequences for voting behaviour.

Our main thesis is that a fundamental shift has occurred in the vote function as a result of this politicisation: short-term factors of voting behaviour, such as economic perceptions and leader-effects, may have been structurally diminished in the countries under bailouts, and where citizens increasingly perceive the main policy decisions as being directed from Brussels.

Seeking to determine the impact of the Eurozone crisis on the attitudes and behaviours, MAPLE will explain how Europe has entered national electoral politics and with what consequences for the vote calculus.

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POLITICISING EUROPE

Politicisation refers to the increasing contentiousness in decision-making in the process of regional integration (Hooghe and Marks, 2012). This project aims to explain the way in which contestation over regional integration connects to domestic conflict and the consequences for electoral behaviour at the national level. Previous research has shown a decrease of economic voting in Southern Europe (Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal) to the extent the EU was held responsible for the economy (Lobo and Lewis-Beck, 2012). Since the introduction of EMU in 2001, the fundamental changes occurred in national decision-making have definitely altered the room for manoeuvre of governments with regard to key policies. With the outbreak of the Eurozone crisis in 2009-2010, the limited ability of certain governments has become painfully clear. MAPLE's hypothesis is that this structural change may induce alterations in the way citizens perceive politics. In particular, we focus on the national character of the vote function, based on the perceived accountability for economic policies. This is an important question that impacts our understanding of how European democracies function today in a multilevel setting.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

Has Europe become an important political variable in national elections?

How do perceptions of global economic interdependence affect economic voting and leader effects in the EU?

Has the Eurozone crisis changed the nature of contestation of the EU issue?

How do media exposure and party identification drive the politicisation of Europe among citizens?

OVERVIEW

MAPLE investigates the salience and polarisation of the European issue, in the media, during electoral campaigns, and in parliamentary debates. The combined analysis of these dimensions will allow us to build an Index of Politicisation of the EU (IPEU), which will provide an innovative, integrated yardstick to account for the level and timing of politicisation. The index will then be used to test hypothesis on what may cause changes in the politicisation of EU during national elections. Finally, we analyse the degree to which politicisation has had an impact on political attitudes and voting behaviour, and its consequences for domestic politics in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

FUNDING

MAPLE is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Grant Agreement nº682125) and is hosted at the Institute of Social Sciences (ICS) of the University of Lisbon, Portugal.