This thesis consists of an introduction and four self-contained papers, designated I-IV, which extend previous research on national political parties and voters in Western Europe. More specifically, the issues addressed are parties’ positions and voters’ opinions on European integration and their dynamic interactions, i.e. the extent to which parties’ influence voters’ opinions, voters influence parties, and the conditions under which they influence each other. All four papers make contributions to both the content of the research field and methodology (statistical techniques) applied.
Paper I re-examines and evaluates several hypotheses regarding the way national political parties position themselves with respect to European integration. Based on analysis of panel data on references to Europe in the election manifestos of political parties in 16 West European countries between 1970 and 2003, I present evidence that their stances on European integration have been largely determined by their ideology, here measured by the locations of the parties within party families and their general orientation along the left/right ideological continuum. The results indicate that the influence of ideology has diminished over time and parties have adopted more favourable positions towards the European project, but it is too early to ignore the connection between left/right and pro/anti integration, since many marginal parties are still taking oppositional stances that are strongly related to their ideological commitments.
In Paper II, I discuss how configurational comparative methods (i.e. Qualitative Comparative Analysis, QCA) and statistical methods can be combined to provide tests for the sufficiency of any given set of combination of causal conditions. The potential utility of the mixed-method approach for analyzing political phenomena is demonstrated by applying it to cross-national data regarding party-based Euroscepti¬cism in Western Europe. The findings show that oppositional stances to European integration are mainly restricted to non-governmental ideological fringe parties on both the left and right. Further, radical left parties with Eurosceptical positions are largely restricted to countries with social democratic (i.e. Nordic) welfare state regimes. The empirical example presented in this paper demonstrates that configurational methods can be successfully combined with related statistical methods.
Paper III examines and evaluates the link between electorates’ opinions and national political parties’ positions on European integration, i.e. the extent to which political parties lead and/or follow public opinion on this issue. Applying a method for causal modelling to panel data concerning political parties’ positions and voters’ opinions in 15 countries from 1973 to 2003, I find (contrary to previous investigations of this relationship) that there is little empirical support for an electoral connection or reciprocal causation between party positions and electorates’ opinion regarding European integration. Parties have an influence on voter opinions, but they are largely unresponsive to changes in voter opinion.
In Paper IV, I examine when parties do (and do not) influence voters’ opinions about EU policy issues. According to previous research, whether parties are able to persuade their constituents to adopt their standpoints depends on several conditions: characteristics and preferences of individual voters, intra-party factors, inter-party factors and several factors that affect the salience of EU issues at the domestic level. Applying hierarchical linear models to data concerning voters’ opinions and political parties’ positions in 14 West European countries, I present findings regarding the conditions under which parties are actually able to influence voters’ opinions concerning European integration.
Umeå, 2009. , 73 p.
Euroscepticism, European integration, dynamic representation, panel data, party positions, political parties, public opinion, voters
2009-10-10, Samhällsvetarhuset, Hörsal C, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (English)