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The salience of EU issues: Explaining political behavior in European Parliament elections

Clark, Nick, and Hulsey, John. (2007) The salience of EU issues: Explaining political behavior in European Parliament elections. In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)

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    [From the introduction]. This paper hypothesizes that both national and supranational politics influence the voters’ choices in EP elections. The EU has varying effects on the politics and governance in the member states. Some member states have had to adopt extensive reforms to uphold the legal and institutional requirements of EU membership. National elections should thus address European matters. Indeed, Schmitter (2003) argues that voters utilize national elections to pressure national governments on European issues. National elections emphasize both national and European issues. EP elections should exhibit a similar pattern. National concerns should not exclusively dictate EP election results. Voters will use their votes to evaluate government performance on both national and European issues. Both dimensions should exert influence on voter choices in EP elections. The argument has several implications for EU studies. At the micro level, it demonstrates a public interest in the EU and disputes the conventional wisdom that the public neither cares nor understands the European Union. Citizens may utilize EP elections to send cues to national parties, but they also possess an interest in EU affairs. Public apathy does not explain the low voter turnout in EP elections. At the macro level, it indicates a basic problem with EU democracy. Several scholars argue that elites have a “permissive consensus” to make decisions at the EU level. EU critics maintain that the EU lacks such legitimacy and suffers from a ‘democracy deficit.’ This paper confirms some of the assumptions behind the deficit argument. Publics take an interest in the EU and thus require forums to participate in EU governance and to facilitate government accountability. EP elections serve none of the traditional functions of elections if they serve solely as barometers on national issues. Additionally, if voters use EP elections to signal displeasure with national governments for their actions at the European level, then elites should not assume they have a permissive consensus. This paper builds on the EP election literature by exploring the motivations behind EP voters. It also contributes to the growing body of literature on multi-level governance. Several scholars examine the effect of interactions between local, regional, national and supranational levels of governance on EU governance. This paper indicates the relationship between multi-level governance and elections, as national governments must perform at multiple levels in order to secure popular support.

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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > europeanisation/europeanization & European identity
    EU policies and themes > EU institutions & developments > European Parliament
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > European elections/voting behavior
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2007 (10th), May 17-19, 2007
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2008
    Page Range: p. 23
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:50

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