RECON Online Working Paper 2010/22

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Contesting EU Legitimacy

The Prominence, Content and Justification of Euroscepticism during 2009 EP Election Campaigns


Pieter de Wilde, Hans-Jörg Trenz and Asimina Michailidou (ARENA – Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo)



This paper analyses the prominence, content and justifications of Euroscepticism as a form of EU legitimacy contestation. Support of and opposition to European integration have so far been mainly measured through the positions of political parties or citizens’ attitudes through public opinion polls. Against this reliance on static indicators, we focus on dynamic contestation, mediation and formation of public opinion in the public sphere. Our survey delivers original data on EU legitimacy contestation as unfolding on frequently visited political websites and blogs in 12 EU Member States and transnational websites during the European Parliament election campaign of 2009. The results are, first, that intensity of contestation varies across Member States unrelated to the amount of coverage of the elections. Secondly, the majority of contestation focuses on the current institutional set-up of the EU, rather than the principle or future project of European integration. A majority of evaluations made, particularly those by citizens, are negative in all countries included in our study. However, as these Eurosceptical contributions remain relatively underspecified, it is unclear what would alleviate citizens’ discontent. Thirdly, we find that a primary concern in EU legitimacy contestation is democracy, especially for those evaluating EU legitimacy negatively.



Democracy ― European Elections ― European Identity ― European Parliament ― Legitimacy ― Media

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