Support for Europe: Assessing the complexity of individual attitudes

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Series Details Vol.16 (2012), No.9
Publication Date 2012
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Recent scholarly work has underlined the importance of being cautious about the notion of Euro-skepticism by putting stress on alternative concepts and measures. This theoretical and empirical contribution has enriched the debate on support for Europe and its potential multidimensionality. However, the fit between theoretical conceptualization and measured attitudes is still under-investigated. Do European citizens actually express different types of support? To what extent are these attitudes structured as we think? This paper investigates the different dimensions that individuals associate with “support for Europe” and whether it varies across national context. We test the empirical validity of three conceptualizations of support for Europe: (a) diffuse versus specific support, (b) identity versus diffuse support, (c) static versus dynamic perception of the European Union. To investigate these patterns, we relied on survey data from Eurobarometer. Methodologically, we use item-response theory modelling. This paper demonstrates that attitudes towards Europe are structured but in a less fine-grained manner than hypothesized in the literature. The distinction between diffuse and specific support is robust at the European scale as well as within each national context. Consequently, we provide an empirical tool to comparatively measure support in all member states. However it is not the case for the other dimensions of support, especially identity, and we advocate caution in using this variable as an explanatory variable.

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