European Union issue voting in East and West Europe: The role of political context

Abstract

Recent research has shown the rise of domestic contention over European integration. This paper examines the extent to which preferences over European integration influence domestic party support in 19 European Union (EU) member states in West and East-Central Europe (ECE). The analysis finds broad evidence of EU issue voting across the countries included in the analysis, but the effect of the EU issue on party preferences is stronger in ECE. These results are consistent with the view that the same underlying causal dynamics explain party and voter behavior in both West and ECE, but the post-communist legacy shapes the political and economic contexts in the ECE states, resulting in predictable differences between the two regions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Figure 1
Figure 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    The countries that are not included are Belgium, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Sweden.

  2. 2.

    Vote propensities have been used successfully in other studies of voting behavior, and they have been found to correlate strongly with reported voting behavior (Oppenhuis, 1995; Tillie, 1995; van der Brug et al, 2007). See van der Eijk et al (2006) and van der Brug et al (2007, Chapter 2) for a further discussion of the advantages of this approach.

  3. 3.

    Note that the use of a ‘stacked’ data matrix procedure is by no means new. MacDonald et al (1991), for example, use this procedure to estimate the effect of directional vs proximity models of voting on party evaluation in much the same way as we do here.

  4. 4.

    Estimating the models separately on the cases from ECE and West Europe produced substantively identical results to those presented in Table 1, and EU Issue Proximity was positive and significant in both subsamples (though the coefficient was slightly stronger in the ECE countries).

  5. 5.

    Note that the overall explanatory power (that is, R2) of the regression model is somewhat weak. Two points are important to consider in this respect. First, the objective of this study is to explore the impact of EU attitudes on the vote rather than maximizing the explained variance in vote choice. Second, the weak explanatory power of the model is not unexpected as we estimate a model using solely individual-level predictors and only one country-level predictor (East vs West). A stacked data set allows for the inclusion of party- and country-level predictors to account for the variation at these levels (van der Eijk et al, 2006), but this is not the objective of this analysis.

  6. 6.

    The conditional coefficients are calculated based on the following formula (see Brambor et al, 2006): while the conditional standard errors are given by

  7. 7.

    The only two countries that held national level elections simultaneously with the EP elections – Lithuania and Luxembourg – were not included in our analysis due to lack of available survey data. Several countries held regional or local elections contemporaneously in all or parts of the country.

References

  1. Brambor, T., Clark, W. and Golder, M. (2006) Understanding interaction models: Improving empirical analysis. Political Analysis 14: 63–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Carey, S. (2002) Undivided loyalties: Is national identity an obstacle to European integration? European Union Politics 3: 387–413.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Carrubba, C.J. (2001) The electoral connection in European Union politics. Journal of Politics 63: 141–158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Cichowski, R.A. (2000) Western dreams, eastern realities: Support for the European Union in Central and Eastern Europe. Comparative Political Studies 33: 1243–1278.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. De Vries, C.E. (2007) Sleeping giant: Fact or fairytale? How European integration affects national elections. European Union Politics 8: 363–385.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. De Vries, C.E. (2009) The impact of EU referenda on national electoral politics: Evidence from the Dutch case. West European Politics 32: 142–171.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Down, I. and Wilson, C.J. (2008) From ‘permissive consensus’ to ‘constraining dissensus’: A polarizing union? Acta Politica 43: 26–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Edwards, E.E. (2007) United we stand? Intra-party dissent in the EU on issues of European integration. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association; 12–15 April 2007, Chicago.

  9. Elgün, Ö. and Tillman, E.R. (2007) Exposure to European Union policies and support for membership in the candidate countries. Political Research Quarterly 60: 391–400.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Gabel, M. (1998) Interests and Integration: Market Liberalization, Public Opinion, and European Union. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Gabel, M. (2000) European integration, voters, and national politics. West European Politics 23: 52–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hooghe, L. and Marks, G. (2005) Calculation, community, and cues. European Union Politics 6: 419–443.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Lewis-Beck, M.S. and Stegmaier, M. (2007) Economic models of voting. In: R.J. Dalton and H.-D. Klingemann (eds.) Oxford Handbook of Political Behaviour. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 518–537.

    Google Scholar 

  14. MacDonald, S.E., Listhaug, O. and Rabinowitz, G. (1991) Issues and party support in multiparty systems. American Political Science Review 84: 1107–1131.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Marks, G., Hooghe, L., Nelson, M. and Edwards, E. (2006) Party competition and European integration in the East and West: Different structure, same causality. Comparative Political Studies 39: 155–175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Marks, G. and Wilson, C.J. (2000) The past in the present: A cleavage theory of party response to European integration. British Journal of Political Science 30: 433–459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Mattila, M. and Raunio, T. (2006) Cautious voters–supportive parties: Opinion congruence between voters and parties on the EU dimension. European Union Politics 7: 427–449.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. McLaren, L. (2002) Public support for the European Union: Cost/benefit analysis or perceived cultural threat? Journal of Politics 64: 551–566.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Oppenhuis, E. (1995) Voting Behaviour in Europe: A Comparative Analysis of Electoral Participation and Party Choice. Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Rohrschneider, R. and Whitefield, S. (2006) Political parties, public opinion, and European integration in post-communist countries: The state of the art. European Union Politics 7: 141–160.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Rohrschneider, R. and Whitefield, S. (2007) Representation in new democracies: Party stances on European integration in post-communist Eastern Europe. Journal of Politics 69: 1133–1146.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Schoen, H. (2008) Turkey's bid for EU membership, contrasting views of public opinion, and vote choice. Evidence from the 2005 German federal election. Electoral Studies 27: 344–355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Steenbergen, M.R., Edwards, E.E. and de Vries, C.E. (2007) Who's cueing whom? Mass–elite linkages and the future of European integration. European Union Politics 8: 13–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Tillie, J. (1995) Party Utility and Voting Behavior. Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Tillman, E.R. (2004) The European Union at the ballot box? European integration and voting behavior in the new member states. Comparative Political Studies 37: 590–610.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Tworzecki, H. (2003) Learning to Choose: Electoral Politics in East-Central Europe. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Tucker, J.A. (2006) Regional Economic Voting. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Tucker, J.A., Pacek, A.C. and Berinsky, A.J. (2002) Transitional winners and losers: Attitudes toward EU membership in post-communist countries. American Journal of Political Science 46: 557–571.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. van der Brug, W., Franklin, M.N. and Toka, G. (2008) One electorate or many? Differences in party preference formation between new and established European democracies. Electoral Studies 27: 589–600.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. van der Brug, W., van der Eijk, C. and Franklin, M.N. (2007) The Economy and the Vote: Economic Conditions and Elections in Fifteen Countries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. van der Eijk, C. and Franklin, M.N. (2004) Potential for contestation on European matters at national elections in Europe. In: G. Marks and M.R. Steenbergen (eds.) European Integration and Political Conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 33–50.

    Google Scholar 

  32. van der Eijk, C. and Franklin, M.N. (2007) The sleeping giant: The potential for political mobilization of disaffection with European integration. In: W. van der Brug and C. van der Eijk (eds.) European Elections and Domestic Politics: Lessons from the Past and Scenarios for the Future. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, pp. 189–208.

    Google Scholar 

  33. van der Eijk, C., Franklin, M.N. and van der Brug, W. (1999) Policy preferences and party choice. In: H. Schmitt and J. Thomassen (eds.) Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 163–187.

    Google Scholar 

  34. van der Eijk, C. and Niemöller, B. (1983) Electoral Change in the Netherlands. The Hague: CT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. van der Eijk, C., van der Brug, W., Kroh, M. and Franklin, M.N. (2006) Rethinking the dependent variable in voting behavior: On the measurement and analysis of electoral utilities. Electoral Studies 25: 424–447.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Catherine E. de Vries acknowledges the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for providing financial support for this research (VENI GRANT 451-08-001). Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2007 Meeting of the MPSA in Chicago and the 2007 ECPR General in Pisa. The authors would like to thank all participants for their input. Remaining errors are the sole responsibility of the authors.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Catherine E de Vries.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

de Vries, C., Tillman, E. European Union issue voting in East and West Europe: The role of political context. Comp Eur Polit 9, 1–17 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1057/cep.2009.7

Download citation

Keywords

  • elections, voting behavior, European integration, East-Central Europe, West Europe