Legitimacy, Euroscepticism & Identity in the European Union-Problems of Measurement, Modelling & Paradoxical Patterns of Influence

Michael Bruter
2008 Journal of Contemporary European Research   unpublished
In the past 10 years, an increasing number of social scientists and communication specialists have tried to understand how political institutions and the mass media attempt to-and often seemingly manage to-influence political identities. This body of literature has resulted in some tremendous progress in our understanding of multiple identities, identity change, and theories of communication, but in the context of European identity, there seems to be a distinct breakdown in communication
more » ... ommunication between specific studies of European identity, and more general analyses of European public opinion and Europeans' political behaviour. This article argues that a strongly emerging European identity may in fact be responsible for a number of recent developments in European public opinion and electoral behaviour that many authors have perceived as paradoxical, or simply chosen to ignore because they seemed to go against our traditional categories of analysis, such as Euroscepticism and democratic fatigue. However, this article suggests that this role of identity has been misevaluated because of some significant problems relating to the measurement, causation analysis, and interpretation of European identity as a concept and as an operational variable. This article focuses on some of these key problems, highlights some critical and often unexplained paradoxes, and proposes a few essential notions when it comes to the conceptualisation and operational measurement of political identities, as well as the evaluations of what affects them. IN 2005, FRENCH AND DUTCH CITIZENS DEFIED THE ORIGINAL PREDICTIONS OF A vast majority of analysts by voting against a proposed 'Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe' in two popular referenda just a few days apart. These shock results have opened a can of worms of competing interpretations, many of which remain either unsubstantiated or merely backed by some relatively limited data. Using the traditional models of second order votes on European questions (Leduc 2002), a number of analysts predominantly focused on how much a vastly unpopular government cost to the referendum. Others have come to the conclusion that European citizens merely showed an 'obvious' lack of European identity, unprecedented levels of Euroscepticism, or a general sense that integration has gone further politically than what citizens desired as they would prefer a more 'technical' and economic integration. In many ways, such is indeed the doubtful interpretation followed by European institutions themselves as well as the heads of states and governments who thought, for reasons that belong to them alone, that deleting the section on symbols of the European Union (EU) (one of the single most popular aspects The author would like to thank Sarah Harrison for her help and suggestions on this manuscript