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Creating Europe through culture? The impact of the European Song Contest on European identity

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The UK’s Brexit vote marked a major institutional crisis for the EU and re-opened both the scholarly and the popular debate about the importance and drivers of a “European identity”. We use quasi-experimental data to estimate the immediate impact of the biggest pan-European cultural event, the Eurovision Song Contest, on whether people in Europe consider themselves to be Europeans. Using data from several Eurobarometer surveys with tens of thousands of observations, we find little evidence that the contest at current provides a sizeable immediate boost to the share of Europeans who feel European, feel EU citizens, or have a positive image of the EU.

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  1. While identity has been a “standard” subject of study in both psychology and sociology, there is also a substantial literature on identity in economics, focusing mainly on the impact of identity on economic outcomes. One of the first papers to introduce identity into the economics literature is Akerlof and Kranton (2000), who argue that identity, “a person’s sense of self”, is associated with “prescribed behaviours” and that violating such prescribed behaviours leads to discomfort. Consequently, identity affects the payoffs from one’s actions and thus one’s economic behaviour. Various aspects of the interaction between economic behaviour and identity have since been studied: Benjamin et al. (2010) focus on how identity affects time and risk preferences and Hoff and Pandey (2014) investigate how cues to identity affect intellectual performance, while Kranton et al. (2016) analyse how prosocial behaviour varies with group affiliation.

  2. There are two semi-finals and one final.

  3. But one cannot vote for the performer of one’s own country.

  4. Others estimate the influence of these voting patterns on economic outcomes. For example, Felbermayr and Toubal (2010) and Kokko and Tingvall (2014) use the cultural preferences expressed in Eurovision voting to study the impact of culture on trade.

  5. The data set was downloaded from the GESIS data archive——except for the 2015 survey, for which the date of the interview was not included in the GESIS data set but obtained from Kantar Public Brussels, which implements the Eurobarometer surveys.

  6. Unlike the first 2 questions, this question was also posed to respondents in 5 candidate countries, but we exclude these observations, focusing only on the respondents from the 28 EU member states.

  7. For the first question, answers (1) and (2) are coded as 1, for the second question, any answer other than (1) is coded as 1 and, for the last question, answers (1) and (2) are coded as 1. Respondents who gave no answer are excluded from the sample.

  8. While we have data from day − 8 to day + 12, we only show the days for which we have data for all the years for the sake of comparability across days.

  9. In a joint test of these factors (see McKenzie 2017), we easily reject the null of no significant coefficients. Not surprisingly, the day of the week and country explain a large chunk in the variation in the interview group to which a respondent is allocated, with other factors contributing little to the R2.

  10. If we use a probit model rather than an OLS model, we obtain similar results, with none of the marginal effects being significant at the 10% significance level.

  11. Moreover, not all of these are necessarily European.

  12. In addition, besides watching ESC on television, people can follow the ESC online or via radio.

  13. The data were downloaded from


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We thank Abdul Noury, Bob Reed and Victor Ginsburgh for their helpful comments and Chris Hanley from Kantar Public for providing the 2015 data set.

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Correspondence to Tom Coupe.

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Coupe, T., Chaban, N. Creating Europe through culture? The impact of the European Song Contest on European identity. Empirica 47, 885–908 (2020).

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