The multi-faceted nature of party-based Euroscepticism


The article presents a large-scale analysis of party attitudes toward the EU with a specific focus on Euroscepticism. We first compare the attitudes of radical parties to those of mainstream parties in order to assess their differences with regard to many specific aspects of the EU process. Then, we show that extreme left and extreme right express rather distinctive views when moving from broad Eurosceptical stances to more specific preferences on the integration process. Finally, we highlight significant differences in party attitudes toward the EU across countries, particularly between the old and the new member states.

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  1. 1.

    Gabel and Hix (2004) noted a swap in the attitudes of the centre-left and the centre-right toward the EU as part of a broader ideological change.

  2. 2.

    For example, Hix et al (2007) specified this thesis showing a (more limited) influence of being in government or in opposition. Hooghe et al (2004) made reference to the division between parties that represent values of new politics and conventional parties as an additional source of influence.

  3. 3.

    The INTUNE project (Integrated and United: A Quest for Citizenship in an Ever Closer Europe) was financed by the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Union, Priority 7, Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge Based Society (CIT3-CT-2005-513421).

  4. 4.

    The countries included are as following: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and United Kingdom. Some of the radical parties that are well-known today were not included in the sample as they were not as established at the time, or simply because they did not issue a proper Euromanifesto. The data set includes 64 Euromanifestos belonging to the radical parties reported in Appendix A.

  5. 5.

    The two data sets are not homogeneous in terms of variables, cases and metrics. While the IntUne data set is strictly focused on positions on the EU, the EES survey is much broader as its coding system is based on the Comparative Manifesto Project that, since 1979, has assessed party policy positions and issue emphases on seven domains and numerous themes (Braun et al, 2010). Moreover, the EES 2009 data refer to all 27 EU member states (196 Euromanifestos in total, of which 40 of radical parties), a larger number than those surveyed by the IntUne project. In spite of all these differences, we were able to select a number of variables from the two data sets that, after adaptation of their metrics, were suitable for comparison.

  6. 6.

    Owing to limits of space, differences between old and new member states are only reported in the text when relevant.

  7. 7.

    Mainstream parties have been considered those belonging to the following party families: Christian democrats, socialists, liberals, conservatives, regionalists (except the Italian Lega Nord), greens and some other moderate parties following the indication of the country experts involved in the research. Communist, nationalists, extreme left and extreme right parties have been considered radical (see Appendix A). These classifications were made ex-ante on the basis of party broad ideological alignments.

  8. 8.

    The variable consists of critical references to the own country's ‘loss of power, competences, and sovereignty’ that were consequent to European integration.

  9. 9.

    We analysed the EES 2009 variables labeled ‘Majority voting in the (European) Council: Positive/Negative’.

  10. 10.

    We analysed the EES 2009 variable labeled ‘Military: Positive’ consisting of references to the ‘need to maintain or increase military expenditure; modernising armed forces and improvement in military strength; rearmament and self-defence; need to keep military treaty obligations; need to secure adequate manpower in the military, need for military cooperation’ at the European level.

  11. 11.

    Among them, the Italian MSI-Alleanza Nazionale, the German PDS and the Greek Synaspismos were the most supportive parties, but at some point other radical parties such as the Greek LAOS and the German Republicans were supportive too.

  12. 12.

    We only show results for the 1979–2004 period because we do not dispose of enough cases to break it down into centre-left and centre-right and into years and still produce robust results. At the same time, aggregating centre-left and centre-right into one category would create some false evidence because their respective scores would neutralise each other.

  13. 13.

    For example, communist parties in France, Italy and Spain and Synaspismos in Greece were univocally in favour of these solutions.

  14. 14.

    We analysed the EES 2009 variable labeled ‘Welfare State General: Positive’ consisting of references ‘to need to introduce, maintain or expand any social service or social security scheme’ at the European level.

  15. 15.

    The variables of the EES 2009 data set that we considered are the ‘National way of life – positive’ defined as ‘appeals to patriotism and/or nationalism, support for established national ideas, suspension of some freedoms in order to protect the state against subversion’; and the ‘European way of life – positive’ defined as ‘appeals to a European way of life, the Occident, or Western Civilization’.

  16. 16.

    In order to guarantee the highest standards of inter-coder reliability, the coding system was tested on a standard text by all country experts. For the variables analysed in the article, the test's inter-coder convergence rate was 64.7 per cent. After the test, the variables with lower convergence rates were further simplified and dichotomised as shown in the appendix.


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Correspondence to Nicolò Conti.


Appendix A

Table A1

Table A1 Radical parties considered in the analyses (1994–2004)

Appendix B

Excerpts from the codebook of the IntUne projectFootnote 16


Favourable opportunities

Europe has mainly brought benefits and improvements to the country. Agreement and consensus are expressed for European integration processes.

Negative constraints

Europe has mainly limited and constrained the country without bringing positive results. Discontent is expressed for European integration processes.


No reference



Preference for decisions made by majority voting.

Positive mentions of this method of decision-making.

Positive mentions of the empowerment of the supranational level.


Decision-making should be kept central to the member-states and decisions in the EU made by unanimity. Negative mentions of the empowerment of the supranational level.

Mixed supranational and intergovernmental

National preference

European institutions are severely criticised, powers should be shifted back to member states. European institutions should have solely advisory or implementation functions.

No reference


Foreign Policy


Defence Policy


Social Policy (includes employment)

The favourite level of competence is registered for each policy area. Combinations of different levels are registered only when mentioned explicitly.

Supranational only

National only

Supranational+National (it may include local)

No reference



Reference to ascribed or acquired elements that define belonging to Europe, such as a common culture, values, customs, history or traditions.

Reference to elements differentiating the in-group (the Europeans) from the out-group (the others).

No reference



Reference to national identity or to commonalities/similarities among the country citizens.

No reference

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Conti, N., Memoli, V. The multi-faceted nature of party-based Euroscepticism. Acta Polit 47, 91–112 (2012).

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  • parties
  • EU
  • Euroscepticism