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Further integration in the European Union (EU) increasingly depends on public legitimacy. The global financial crisis and the subsequent euro area crisis have amplified both the salience and the redistributive consequences of decisions taken in Brussels, raising the question of how this has influenced public support for European integration. In this contribution, we examine how public opinion has responded to the crisis, focusing on support for monetary integration. Interestingly, our results show that support for the euro has remained high within the euro area; however, attitudes are increasingly driven by utilitarian considerations, whereas identity concerns have become less important. While the crisis has been seen to deepen divisions within Europe, our findings suggest that it has also encouraged citizens in the euro area to form opinions on the euro on the basis of a cost–benefit analysis of European economic governance, rather than relying primarily on national attachments.
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Public opinion and the crisis: the
dynamics of support for the euro
Sara B. Hobolt & Christopher Wratil
Published online: 12 Jan 2015.
To cite this article: Sara B. Hobolt & Christopher Wratil (2015) Public opinion and the crisis:
the dynamics of support for the euro, Journal of European Public Policy, 22:2, 238-256, DOI:
10.1080/13501763.2014.994022
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2014.994022
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Public opinion and the crisis: the
dynamics of support for the euro
Sara B. Hobolt and Christopher Wratil
ABSTRACT Further integration in the European Union (EU) increasingly
depends on public legitimacy. The global financial crisis and the subsequent euro
area crisis have amplified both the salience and the redistributive consequences of
decisions taken in Brussels, raising the question of how this has influenced public
support for European integration. In this contribution, we examine how public
opinion has responded to the crisis, focusing on support for monetary integration.
Interestingly, our results show that support for the euro has remained high within
the euro area; however, attitudes are increasingly driven by utilitarian considerations,
whereas identity concerns have become less important. While the crisis has been seen
to deepen divisions within Europe, our findings suggest that it has also encouraged
citizens in the euro area to form opinions on the euro on the basis of a cost benefit
analysis of European economic governance, rather than relying primarily on national
attachments.
KEY WORDS Crisis; euro; euroscepticism; identity; public opinion
INTRODUCTION
The global economic crisis and the ensuing euro area crisis have highlighted the
salience and the redistributive consequences of monetary integration. As a con-
sequence, citizens have become increasingly aware of the interdependence of
European economies and the importance of European Union (EU) institutions
in determining the future of individual national economies. Institutional
responses to the crisis have also brought about reforms to deepen integration
in the EU and resulted in calls for greater democracy and enhanced legitimacy.
The euro area crisis thus represents the clearest example to date of Europe-wide
politicization of the integration issue, understood in Schmitter’s sense as a
‘widening of the audience or clientele interested and active in integration’
(1969: 166). This can thus be seen as a critical step in the ongoing process
leading away from the ‘permissive consensus’ of the early period of integration,
where insulated leaders could make decisions without public consultation,
towards a ‘constraining dissensus’ where public opinion is both more critical
and more decisive (Hooghe and Marks 2009). With a proliferation of referen-
dums on EU matters, politicization of EU issues in national elections and
increased powers of the European Parliament, future reforms to deepen Euro-
pean integration hinge more than ever upon public support.
#2015 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis.
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(http://creativecommons.org/Licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Journal of European Public Policy, 2015
Vol. 22, No. 2, 238 256, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2014.994022
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This raises the question of how greater public awareness of European inte-
gration and its economic consequences changes the nature and role of public
opinion in the integration process. In this contribution, we address a key
aspect of this question by examining how the dynamics of support for the EU
have been shaped by the euro crisis. Specifically, we analyse how attitudes
towards monetary integration have been influenced by the global financial
crisis and the euro area crisis since 2008. Our findings demonstrate that, contrary
to what one might expect, public support for economic integration has remained
stable within the euro area, while it has declined in EU member states outside the
euro area (see also Hobolt and Leblond [2014]; Roth et al.[2011]). However, the
factors that shape euro support in the euro area have shifted from identity-based
concerns before the crisis to more utilitarian considerations during the crisis.
These results suggest that as citizens receive more information about the econ-
omic consequences of monetary integration, people’s attitudes towards the
euro are more likely to be based on a systematic evaluation of the costs and
benefits of the integration process. Such a utility-based approach to integration
implies that citizens assign greater weight to individual and societal economic
benefits from integration when forming opinions about monetary integration
and are less likely to oppose the euro because of their attachment to the nation.
Hence, while support for the euro may appear stable, the continued legitimacy
of EU economic governance could depend on whether the EU is seen to
deliver effective solutions to economic problems.
PUBLIC OPINION AND EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
Grand theories of integration have largely neglected the role of public opinion,
not least because the general public was considered to be of minimal importance
for the process of integration. However, both major integration theories, liberal
intergovernmentalism and neofunctionalism, allow for ways in which public
opinion could potentially become relevant. Liberal intergovernmentalism theo-
rizes the importance of domestic interests in shaping governments’ preferences
as a first ‘level’ of the two-level game of European integration. This could poten-
tially provide a role for public opinion, assuming that EU matters are suffi-
ciently salient to influence the electoral incentives of national politicians
(Bo
¨rzel and Risse 2009; Moravcsik 1998). Yet, the primary focus of liberal inter-
governmentalism is domestically organized economic interests shaping national
governments’ positions, rather than the role of national electorates (Moravcsik
1998). Similarly, according to neofunctionalism, politicization of EU issues
could render public opinion important; yet other drivers of integration,
notably economic interests organized in transnational associations and the pre-
ferences of member states, are considered far more significant (Haas 1958;
Hooghe and Marks 2006; Schmitter 1969). Hence, while grand theories have
acknowledged that public opinion can potentially play a role if the integration
process became more salient, they have only paid limited attention to the mech-
anisms through which it should become important, and they have not engaged
S.B. Hobolt & C. Wratil: Public opinion and the crisis 239
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with the question of how public opinion is shaped by the process of integration
itself.
The increasing politicization of the EU since the 1990s, however, has led
scholars to pay more attention to the impact of public opinion on integration.
Notably, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks (2009) have formulated an ambitious
‘postfunctionalist theory’, which incorporates the role of public opinion into a
framework for understanding regional integration. They argue that more demo-
cratic control over EU decision-making and increased politicization of the EU
issue in domestic party politics have brought the public into EU decision-
making. Their focus is on the conditions under which an EU issue becomes
politicized in the domestic context and the move from the ‘distributional
logic’ to the ‘identity logic’ of integration. They argue that as the scope and
depth of European integration has intensified and the tension over threats to
national identity have become more salient, not least due to political entrepre-
neurs mobilizing the issue, identity also becomes the key factor shaping attitudes
towards integration (Hooghe and Marks 2009).
This argument relates to the ongoing debate between two alternative perspec-
tives on public support for European integration: a utilitarian and an identity-
based approach. From a utilitarian perspective, generic support for European
integration is determined by a rational cost benefit analysis: those who benefit
economically from European integration (particularly trade liberalization) are
supportive, whereas those who stand to lose are more hostile (Gabel 1998;
Gabel and Palmer 1995; McLaren 2006). Support for monetary integration
has also been explained in utilitarian terms, arguing that individuals with high
involvement in international trade should favour the euro more than individuals
employed in the non-tradable sector (Banducci et al. 2009; Gabel 2001; Gabel
and Hix 2005). Studies of support for the euro have also found that sociotropic
economic concerns play a role: citizens in countries that benefit economically, or
are perceived to benefit economically, from membership of the EU are more
supportive of the euro (Banducci et al. 2003,2009; Hobolt and Leblond
2014; Kaltenthaler and Anderson 2001). An alternative explanation for the
variation in support for European integration, and the euro more specifically,
focuses less on economic self-interest and more on the threat that European
integration can pose to national identity and a country’s symbols and values
(Carey 2002; Hooghe and Marks 2004; McLaren 2006). Several studies have
shown that attachment to the nation, and particularly exclusive national identity,
is a powerful predictor of negative attitudes towards European integration
(Hooghe and Marks 2004; McLaren 2006). In the context of the referendums
on joining the euro in Denmark and Sweden, Jupille and Leblang (2007)
found that ‘identity concerns’ played a greater role than ‘pocketbook calcu-
lations’. Generally, citizens who thought that the EU undermined national sover-
eignty and democracy were more likely to vote against the euro’s adoption (see
also Hobolt and Leblond [2009]). In their recent study of support for European
economic integration during the crisis, Kuhn and Stoeckel (2014) also show that
both utilitarian considerations and national identity matter.
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Hence, existing work has clearly demonstrated that economic calculations
and identity concerns play an important role in explaining variation in
support for the EU, and monetary integration more specifically. However,
less work has examined how the balance between these concerns evolves once
the integration process and its economic consequences become more salient.
1
The visibility of European economic integration undeniably increased during
the euro crisis, as Kriesi and Grande (2014) have shown in their content analysis
of the public debate in six Western European countries. They conclude that ‘the
debate [on the euro crisis] has been exceptionally salient and has contributed to
the increased visibility of Europe in the politics of the European nation-states’
(Kriesi and Grande 2014: 24). While previous bursts of interest in the EU have
tended to concern constitutional matters (e.g., treaty changes) and be concen-
trated in specific countries (e.g., where referendums were held), the euro crisis
is unique in that it has made the issue of European integration salient across
Europe and that it has highlighted decisions at the European level that have
very obvious redistributive consequences between and within countries
(Cramme and Hobolt 2014). Since the crisis has highlighted the tangible econ-
omic consequences, we expect that it is unlikely to evoke an ‘identity logic’, but
that it is rather likely to prompt citizens to employ a ‘utility logic’. Below, we
elaborate on this idea and develop our expectations concerning the public
response to the crisis.
THE PUBLIC RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS
Citizens’ response to the ‘Great Recession’ needs to be understood in the context
of the increasing salience and public awareness of the consequences of monetary
integration. The heightened public salience of integration can be attributed to a
mixture of factors: the visibility of the euro crisis and the EU’s attempt to deal
with it; changes in individual circumstances linked to the crisis (e.g., unemploy-
ment); as well as deliberate attempts by certain political e
´lites to mobilize the
issue and thus expand issue-specific conflict beyond the narrow circle of political
actors (Cramme and Hobolt 2014; De Vries and Hobolt 2012; Hooghe and
Marks 2009). Moreover, in response to the crisis the EU made a number of
interventions that can be seen to increase integration in the EU, including
measures that were targeted at individual debtor states and more formal insti-
tutional reforms to deepen economic integration in the EU (see Ioannou
et al. [2015]).
There is evidence that the crisis raised the public awareness through all of
these mechanisms: initial awareness for the interdependencies monetary inte-
gration had created was already present at the outset of the crisis and this
awareness became more acute after the reforms of European economic govern-
ance, when the issue was also politicized by political entrepreneurs. The ques-
tion of the desirability and future of economic integration in the Union
became commonplace in the national public spheres of euro area countries
and a key feature of national party competition and domestic election
S.B. Hobolt & C. Wratil: Public opinion and the crisis 241
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campaigns (Cramme and Hobolt 2014; Kriesi and Grande 2014). As the crisis
evolved from a financial crisis into a sovereign debt crisis and a euro area crisis,
citizens also started to assign responsibility to the EU for its actions and inac-
tions. These shifts in public awareness of the EU’s impact on the national
economies were particularly pronounced inside the euro area (Hobolt and
Tilley 2014).
Our expectation is that as monetary integration became an issue of general
public awareness and information on the issue was disseminated, the nature of
opinion formation also shifted. We know from the literature in political psychol-
ogy and behavioural economics that greater salience allows people to engage in
more systematic and analytical evaluations, and causes them to rely less on predis-
positions and heuristics. Negative information in particular has been shown to
encourage individuals to engage in systematic evidence-based opinion formation
(Kahneman and Tversky 1979). Systematic processing means that individuals
take heed of the decision-relevant information that is currently available, and
based on this information they carefully piece together a decision. This can be
contrasted with heuristic processing which requires much less effort by individ-
uals, as new information is processed in accordance with these standing decisions,
including affective attachments, such as identities or partisanship, and not taking
into account new information (Chaiken 1980).
In the context of the EU, it has been shown that issue-based proximity voting,
rather than protest voting, is more common in European elections and referen-
dums when the EU issue receives more media coverage and is more salient in the
political debate (de Vries 2007; Hobolt 2009; Tillman 2004). Equally, since the
Great Recession made European integration, and particularly monetary inte-
gration, a more salient issue in the national public debates, we expect citizens
to become more concerned with economic pros and cons of integration. Con-
sequently, our expectation is that utilitarian considerations concerning the econ-
omic benefits from economic integration and the capacity of institutions to
deliver these benefits have come to matter more and identity to matter less as
the issue of economic governance has become more salient. We expect this to
be the case primarily inside the euro area, where there was a fear not only that
individual economies might default, but that the entire system would collapse,
thus creating great uncertainty and risk for euro area members regardless of
whether they were debtor or creditor states. In contrast, we do not expect
change outside the euro area, where the economic implications of a potential
euro area meltdown were more diffuse and received less public attention. We
focus on support for the type of integration most clearly linked to the crisis,
namely support for monetary integration and the euro. This leads us to the fol-
lowing hypotheses:
H1: Economic benefits of integration have become more important to
citizen support for the euro inside the euro area after the onset of the econ-
omic crisis. Outside the euro area the importance of economic benefits has
remained stable.
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H2: Institutional capacity to deliver benefits from economic integration has
become more important to citizen support for the euro inside the euro area
after the EU commenced its institutional reform agenda in response to the
crisis. Outside the euro area the importance of institutional capacity has
remained stable.
H3: National identity has become less important to citizen support for the
euro inside the euro area during the crisis compared to before the crisis.
Outside the euro area the importance of national identity has remained stable.
To test these propositions we start by looking at aggregate-level trends in
support for the euro, and thereafter we present the results from multilevel
models of pre-crisis and crisis surveys of individual support for the euro.
MEASURING THE PUBLIC RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS
It is not straightforward to put a date on the beginning of the European econ-
omic and financial crisis. While the onset of the financial crisis is often dated
back to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, survey data
show that Europeans were aware of the looming economic crisis as early as
the beginning of 2008: the proportion of citizens of Europe thinking that
the ‘economy will get worse’ increased by a remarkable 20 percentage
points between the autumn 2007 and the spring 2008 Eurobarometer
survey waves (see Eurobarometer surveys).
2
The so-called ‘euro area crisis’
only emerged a little later. At the heart of this evolution was the sovereign
debt crisis that surfaced in 2009 with downgrading of government debt in
many European states, particularly in the so-called ‘GIIPS’ countries
(Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain). Concerns intensified in early
2010 and thereafter, leading the EU to implement a series of financial
support measures such as the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF)
and specifically ‘bailout funds’ to countries facing a severe sovereign debt
crisis. These euro rescue measures targeted at helping countries in a severe
sovereign debt crisis were accompanied by more formal institutional
reforms of the governance of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU),
including the decision by the ECB to undertake outright monetary trans-
actions and the establishment of the European Stability Mechanism to safe-
guard and provide instant access to financial assistance programmes (see
Ioannou et al. [2015]). Second, a series of new legal instruments (the so-
called ‘six-pack’, the ‘two-pack’, the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure),
new decision-making procedures (the European Semester) and a new intergo-
vernmental treaty, the Fiscal Compact, were aimed at more tightly constrain-
ing national fiscal policy-making (see Ioannou et al. [2015]). These ongoing
attempts to rescue countries on the brink of bankruptcy, and avoid the col-
lapse of the euro area, as well as the more formal institutional changes,
were extensively covered in the national media across Europe.
S.B. Hobolt & C. Wratil: Public opinion and the crisis 243
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To examine the public response to the crisis and the reforms, we rely on data
from the Eurobarometer (EB), which are conducted twice a year on behalf of
the European Commission, surveying citizens in each of the member states
with respect to their opinions on European matters. According to our theoretical
argument, citizens would have responded to the increasing salience of European
economic governance by adjusting their opinions, but this response would not
have been identical inside and outside the euro area, since the cost –benefit calcu-
lus for insiders and outsiders differs significantly. To explore these claims at the
aggregate level, we measure public attitudes over time, both before and during
the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, distinguishing between insiders and outsiders.
We look specifically at support for the common currency, and we expect different
responses inside and outside the euro area, since the utility calculus differs signifi-
cantly depending on membership status: for countries that are already members,
an exit or potential collapse of the euro area could have potentially disastrous and
highly uncertain economic consequences; whereas for countries not yet members,
the risk-adverse response may be to stay out of a currency area in turmoil. Public
euro support is captured by way of the most commonly used to measure support
for monetary integration, namely the proportion of citizens who favour the EMU
with a single currency.
Figure 1 shows, in line with our general argument, that support for the euro is
lower outside the euro area than inside. We can also see that, whereas there has
been a decline in support among euro outsiders since 2010, support inside the
Figure 1 Support for the euro, inside and outside the euro area
Source: Eurobarometer surveys 2005– 2013. (Eurobarometer Surveys data and docu-
mentation made available by GESIS. Reports available at http://ec.europa.eu/
public_opinion).
244 Journal of European Public Policy
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euro area has remained fairly stable (see also Clements et al.[2014]; Roth et al.
[2011]). This suggests that the choice facing insiders and outsiders is very differ-
ent, and whereas insiders have remained supportive, outsiders have become less
certain about the benefits of joining a monetary union in crisis (Hobolt and
Leblond 2014).
Moreover, despite the severity of the crisis, citizens across Europe continued
to regard the EU as relatively more effective at dealing with the crisis than other
institutions, such as national governments. We can demonstrate this empirically
by using the Eurobarometer question: ‘Which of the following is best able to
take effective actions against the effects of the financial and economic crisis?’
The options include the national government, the European Union, the
United States, the G20, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), other, and
none. Figure 2 shows the proportion of citizens who selected the EU as the insti-
tution best able to take effective action. It is worth noting that, on average, EU
citizens perceived the EU to be most effective at taking action against the crisis
compared to all other options, even national governments.
Figure 2 shows that Europeans became more likely to name the EU as the
most effective institution as the financial crisis evolved into a sovereign debt
crisis in late 2009 and early 2010, especially inside the euro area, where the pro-
portion of people mentioning the EU increased by 10 percentage points
between May 2009 and May 2010. This increase also coincides with high-
profile EU interventions, such as the first Greek bailout and the establishment
of the EFSF to safeguard financial stability in Europe in May 2010. In other
Figure 2 Citizens who think the EU takes most effective action against the crisis,
inside and outside the euro area
Source: Eurobarometer surveys 2009– 2013. (Eurobarometer Surveys data and docu-
mentation made available by GESIS. Reports available at http://ec.europa.eu/public_
opinion).
S.B. Hobolt & C. Wratil: Public opinion and the crisis 245
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words, as the crisis worsened in Europe and the EU started to intervene, more
people thought that the EU is best placed to deal effectively with the conse-
quences of the crisis. This remained stable throughout the crisis, however,
despite the increased measures adopted by the EU in response to the crisis.
Overall, these descriptive data in Figures 1 and 2suggest that the crisis has not
led to reduced support for the euro inside the euro area, whereas this crisis has led
to a sharp decline in support for the single currency outside the euro area. These
results suggest that the utility calculus differed inside and outside the EA after the
onset of the crisis, and that for citizens in the EMU a euro area collapse or exit was
seen as the potentially most costly option, not least due to the widespread percep-
tion that the EU can deliver the most effective solution to the crisis. To examine
more rigorously whether such a ‘utility logic’ was applied by citizens inside the
euro area, we use individual-level data from before and during the crisis.
MODELLING INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL EURO SUPPORT
To assess the changing determinants of euro support, we estimate identical
models of euro support using several waves of pre-crisis and crisis data. This
allows us to closely track changes in effects over time. To do this, we use
several Standard Eurobarometer waves for the years 2005 to 2013.
3
For all
these waves we estimate the effects of all determinants of euro support that
were asked in the respective wave. Unfortunately, we cannot estimate all predic-
tors in one model, as they are rarely included in the same wave, and we thus
estimate slightly different models (see Web Appendix for details [online sup-
plemental material]).
4
Our dependent variable in all models is the respondent’s
(dichotomous) answer to the question whether he or she is for or against ‘A
European economic and monetary union with one single currency, the euro’
(see Figure 1). This question has the convenient property that it captures
support for the euro meaningfully both for citizens inside and outside the
euro area, which any question on adopting or reforming the euro could not
achieve. Turning to the operationalization of utilitarian concerns, we are inter-
ested in finding variables that capture the economic benefits of integration (H1)
and the capacity of institutions to deliver those benefits (H2). To capture per-
ceived country-level benefits from integration, we measure the respondent’s per-
ception of whether his country has benefited from integration: ‘Taking
everything into account, would you say that (OUR COUNTRY) has on
balance benefited or not from being a member of the EU?’ Using this operatio-
nalization of country-level benefits raises a question about the causal direction,
since the respondent’s view on the euro may influence his evaluations of how
much benefit the EU provides, as well as vice versa. However, since our core
argument is not about the direction of causality but about a stronger cognitive
link between cost benefit analysis and euro attitudes due to the crisis, this is less
of a concern. Even if perceived benefits are partly endogenous to euro attitudes,
a stronger association during the crisis can be interpreted as evidence of a change
in the nature of support for the euro. Secondly, to operationalize the capacity of
246 Journal of European Public Policy
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institutions to deliver benefits, we use the Eurobarometer question on the
respondent’s perception of which actor is most able to tackle the effects of
the financial and economic crisis, constructing a dummy variable for those
who consider the EU to be the most effective of all actors (see also Figure 2).
Our third expectation is that national identity will matter less during the crisis
(H3). To capture identity, we use the following question: ‘In the near future, do
you see yourself as (1) [nationality] only, (2) [nationality] and European, (3)
European and [nationality], or (4) European only?’ This question on personal
self-image has been viewed as the gold standard for measuring national identity
by many scholars (e.g., Hooghe and Marks [2004,2005]). In a comparison of
different identity measures, Sinnott (2006) has found that ‘identification
ratings’, such as this question, have the highest levels of predictive validity for
attitudes on the EU. We use a simple four-level scale indicating different
‘degrees of national identity’ with 1 for ‘European only’ and 4 for ‘[nationality]
only’. To test the importance of the specific national context, we also include a
dummy for EMU membership.
5
In each model we include interactions between
EMU membership and the independent variables. We also include standard
controls for education, age and gender that have been shown to influence EU
support.
Our estimates are based on multilevel logistic regression with random inter-
cepts at the country level. By using logistic regression we essentially conceive of
support for monetary integration as an unbounded, latent variable Ythat is
linearly related to our independent variables and linked to the probability of
supporting the euro through the logit link function (Pr Y()=LY
()). All esti-
mated models then take the following general form:
Y=/+
b
1X+
b
2EMU +
b
3XEMU()+
b
4CONTROL ...
+
b
nCONTROL +uj+1i(1)
where Xis the independent variable of interest, EMU is a dummy for euro area
countries, ujis the random intercept at the country level, and 1ithe individual-
level error term.
Our primary interest lies in the changing effect of the independent variables
Xs on latent support for monetary integration Y
()inside versus outside the
euro area and before versus during the crisis. Therefore, we calculate the con-
ditional marginal effects dY
dX

of each of the explanatory variables Xand
their 95 per cent confidence intervals depending on EMU membership.
Figures 3A to 3C show how latent support for the euro (in terms of log
odds) changes in response to a unit change in Xinside versus outside the
euro area and for each available wave. These plots are based on the full regression
models (available in the Web Appendix [online supplemental material]) and the
conditional marginal effects (EMU versus not EMU country) are calculated
S.B. Hobolt & C. Wratil: Public opinion and the crisis 247
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from the interaction between the EMU dummy and the independent variable of
interest (see Brambor et al. 2006). To further illustrate the changing effects of
utility and identity concerns inside the euro area, we also plot the predicted
probabilities of supporting the euro for a hypothetical individual with different
values on the key independent variables before and over the course of the crisis
(Figure 4).
Starting with our first hypothesis (H1), recall that we posited an increase in the
association between benefits from EU membership and support for the euro
inside the euro area. Figure 3A shows strong support for this hypothesis.
While the effect of the variable fluctuates considerably outside the euro area
Figure 3B Determinants of euro support before and during the crisis: marginal
effects of EU as most capable actor
Figure 3A Determinants of euro support before and during the crisis: marginal effects
of perceived benefits from EU membership
248 Journal of European Public Policy
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Figure 3C Determinants of euro support before and during the crisis: marginal
effects of different degrees of national identity
Figure 4 Difference in predicted probabilities of supporting the euro for individuals
with different values on the independent variable (euro area)
Note: These figures show differences in predicted probabilities of supporting the euro
for two hypothetical individuals (female, 47 years old, modal occupation and edu-
cation level in a euro area country) who differ in terms of the variables of interest:
perceived benefits from membership (benefits or no benefits); perceived EU effective-
ness (EU as the most capable/EU not as the most capable); and identity (‘national
only’ or ‘national and European’).
S.B. Hobolt & C. Wratil: Public opinion and the crisis 249
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without a clear trend, the association has become much stronger within EMU
over time. In particular, we witness a large shift in effects between the 2007
and the 2008 waves of the survey (pre- and post-crisis waves) that stabilizes
and becomes even more pronounced in the subsequent years. This suggests
the link between support for the euro and perceived national benefits from inte-
gration was changing from the very onset of the global financial crisis in 2008.
This supports our conjecture that the crisis primed utilitarian concerns in citi-
zens’ reasoning about the euro. Indeed, the change is more immediate than
one might have expected it already occurred after the first signs of a crisis at
the horizon. It coincides with a considerable worsening of citizens’ economic
expectations: whereas in autumn 2007 only about 26 per cent of EU citizens
expected a worsening national economy in the next 12 months, this figure
almost doubled to 46 per cent in just half a year. In accordance with our expec-
tations, citizens in the euro area reoriented their stance on the euro in line with
their assessment of whether integration provides benefits to their country. This is
also reflected in predicted probabilities of supporting the euro: the difference
between an individual who perceives benefits from integration and someone
who does not was about 34– 36 percentage points before the crisis but around
40 during the crisis (Figure 4). In other words, this factor clearly became
more important in predicting support.
We find equally supportive evidence for our second hypothesis. Perceptions
of the EU as the most effective actor to tackle the crisis became an increasingly
important determinant of support for the euro as the crisis proceeded inside the
euro area (Figure 3B). Regrettably, we can only observe the change from spring
2009 onwards, when the question was asked for the first time. However, the
subsequent waves clearly demonstrate that concerns about the EU’s institutional
capacity to deliver effective solutions become more important for euro support,
in particular between 2009 and 2012, when the EU adopted a number of
reform measures in response to the crisis. This change is statistically significant
and it is also substantial in terms of predicted probabilities. Figure 4 demon-
strates that inside the euro area those who viewed the EU as most effective
actor had a 9 percentage points higher probability of supporting the euro in
2009 compared to those who did not view the EU as the best able to take effec-
tive actions, and notably this difference increased to over 15 percentage points in
2012 and 2013. In contrast, we do not see any change in the importance of
institutional effectiveness outside the euro area, in line with our theoretical
expectation. Clearly, citizens outside EMU had less reason to respond to the
euro area crisis by engaging in a cost benefit analysis of economic integration
as they were less directly affected by the fate of the euro area reforms.
Lastly, we turn to changes in the effect of national identity. Figure 3C plots
the effect of degrees of national identity on a four-point scale between 2005 and
2013. The findings strongly support our third hypothesis. The effect of the vari-
able has significantly diminished within the euro area over time. Notably, iden-
tity plays a much less important role for supporting the euro in 2010 compared
to 2005, and the effect of identity remains at this lower level in the following
250 Journal of European Public Policy
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years. As with benefits from integration, this again corroborates the finding that
the cognitive shift we observe already took place during the early phase of the
crisis. However, as we have fewer data points for identity, we cannot ascertain
when exactly the shift occurred. We can, however, conclude that citizens
clearly relied less on identity heuristics when forming their views on the euro
as the crisis unfolded. Figure 4 shows that, before the crisis, individuals in the
euro area conceiving of themselves as ‘national only’ had about 21 percentage
points lower probability of supporting the euro than those with ‘national and
European’ identity. In contrast, this difference due to identity diminished to
14 17 percentage points during the crisis. Hence, the role of identity in pre-
dicting support for the euro diminished during the crisis. Outside the euro
area, however, the effect of identity remained largely stable.
Overall, we find that while both identity and utility concerns are important
drivers of euro support both before and during the crisis, there is a significant
shift in the balance of these determinants. This amounts to an increase in the
differences in the predicted probabilities of euro support produced by perceived
membership benefits and institutional benefits of about 4 7 percentage points
over the course of the crisis, and a similar decrease in the differences in euro
support due to identity. This is quite a substantial shift over a relatively short
time period of four to eight years, and it is comparable in magnitude to those
reported in existing studies on changing determinants of public support for
European integration (see Hakhverdian et al. [2013]). Therefore, this analysis
has demonstrated that while a simple glance at aggregate-level support for the
euro inside the euro area reveals little change over the past eight years, a
closer look at individual-level data demonstrates a significant shift in the
factors shaping support. Inside the euro area the balance between rational
cost benefit considerations and identity factors has changed: economic benefits
and institutional capacity now matter more, whereas identity matters less. In
contrast, the determinants of support for the euro have remained stable
outside the euro area.
CONCLUSION
Public opinion and voters play only a marginal role in classic theories of European
integration. According to the dominant theories, the process of integration has
been considered the remit of political and economic e
´lites and of little interest
to ordinary citizens. However, the euro area crisis has presented the EU with its
most acute challenge to date, as it has pitted creditor states against debtor states,
brought the negative consequences of monetary integration into focus and threa-
tened the very survival of the new currency. As a result, Europe has become a more
salient and divisive issue than ever before and European leaders can no longer rely
on a ‘permissive consensus’. In this contribution, we have addressed the important
question of how the crisis has affected the nature of attitudes towards the euro.
Our findings show that despite the severity of the crisis, support for the euro
inside the euro area has remained high, whereas it has declined significantly
S.B. Hobolt & C. Wratil: Public opinion and the crisis 251
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outside the euro area. Moreover, citizens have become more aware of these costs
due the heightened salience of the economic consequences of the integration
process during the crisis. We argue that utility calculations have become more
important to euro insiders during the crisis, at the expense of identity heuristics
that have come to play a less important role in shaping attitudes. Indeed we find
strong support for these propositions in our analysis of cross-national individ-
ual-level survey data between 2005 and 2013, which demonstrates that the
balance between rational cost benefit considerations and identity factors has
changed inside the euro area, whereas we find virtually no change outside the
euro area. Hence, the analysis reveals a growing divide between insiders and out-
siders: not only have citizens inside the euro area remained more supportive of
the euro than those outside, but they also appear more readily persuaded by uti-
litarian considerations and arguments than citizens in other EU countries.
These findings contribute to the wider literature on the dynamics of support
for European integration. Recent work on European integration, notably the
theory of postfunctionalism (Hooghe and Marks 2009), has highlighted that
national identity should become increasingly important for attitudes on Euro-
pean integration as the EU becomes politicized in domestic arenas. This is based
on the observation that political entrepreneurs, often located on the fringes of
the political spectrum, use identity frames to mobilize the integration issue in
public discourses. This study suggests that the shifting determinants of EU
support may depend on the type of politicization that takes place. Our findings
show that as the issue of monetary integration became more salient and citizens
more aware of it, identity concerns became less important to citizens, and utili-
tarian concerns about the EU’s institutional effectiveness and benefits of inte-
gration became more important. This is not necessarily irreconcilable with the
postfunctionalist propositions. Hooghe and Mark’s expectation is that iden-
tity-based public opinion will be particularly pronounced if the integration
issue that is contested has ‘opaque economic implications’ and ‘transparent
communal implications’ (2009: 13). However, in contrast to previous periods
of high politicization of the EU issue (notably referendums on treaty
changes), the euro crisis has emphasized the economic and redistributive impli-
cations of integration (Hobolt and Tilley 2014; Kriesi and Grande 2014).
Hence, this suggests that when the debate on European integration is focused
on economic integration and its consequences, this may instead encourage citi-
zens to think of integration more in terms of economic self-interest and less in
terms of their national identity. It is also noteworthy that the increased salience
of European integration has been driven not primarily by the issue entrepre-
neurship of political e
´lites and challenger parties, but rather by an exogenous
‘shock’ to the EU’s economic system in ways that have not only shaped the
nature of the public debate, but also had tangible effects on the personal circum-
stances and future prospects of millions of citizens in the EU. Interestingly, our
findings show that the shift in the dynamics of euro support took place before
the worst effects of the crisis were felt by ordinary Europeans, and hence can be
252 Journal of European Public Policy
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interpreted as a reaction to the heightened salience of integration and the fear of
future repercussions, rather than actual changes in economic circumstances.
The increasing importance of the ‘utility logic’ over the ‘identity logic’ may
also explain why support for the euro has remained high and stable inside the
euro area, despite the severity of the economic crisis. Our results suggest that
Europeans generally considered the EU to be more effective than any other
institution, including their own national governments, in taking action
against the crisis, and inside the euro area the perceived effectiveness of EU insti-
tutions played an increasingly important role in keeping support for the euro
high. It is worth noting, however, that the shift away from identity-based
opinions may be particularly pronounced because we are looking specifically
at attitudes towards monetary integration, which arguably has clearer economic
implications than other forms of integration, and it is not certain that these find-
ings can be generalized to all types of integration support.
This study nonetheless has several implications for our understanding of Euro-
pean integration. First, it suggests that we should not necessarily expect greater
politicization of the integration issue to equal more identity-based attitudes
towards integration. Indeed, greater contestation that highlights the distribu-
tional consequences of the integration process may instead lead to opinions
that are increasingly based on a cost benefit analysis of the European project.
A second and related contribution is that it challenges the prediction that national
identities will continue to pose a significant constraint on the integration process
in the long term. While our results show that identities matter, they also indicate
that major shocks to the system can render them less important, certainly when it
comes to attitudes towards economic integration. So far, the integration issue has
been mobilized primarily by domestic political entrepreneurs emphasizing iden-
tity-based Eurosceptic concerns. Yet, our findings suggest that the public may also
be receptive to the mobilization of the integration issue on the basis of utility-
based arguments. Hence, while we are unlikely to return to the days where the
European political e
´lites could safely ignore public opinion, this study has illus-
trated that greater public contestation does not necessarily equal a public veto.
Instead, the crisis demonstrates that public opinion on integration might be
more dynamic and responsive to the changing nature of the integration process
than stylized theories predict. This should be reflected in future studies as we con-
tinue to advance our models of public opinion formation on European inte-
gration by taking seriously the impact of the political and economic context.
Biographical notes: Sara Hobolt is the Sutherland Chair in European Insti-
tutions at the European Institute, London School of Economics and Political
Science. Christopher Wratil is a PhD candidate at the London School of Econ-
omics and Political Science.
Address for correspondence: Sara Hobolt, European Institute, London School
of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE.
email: s.b.hobolt@lse.ac.uk/Christopher Wratil, European Institute, London
S.B. Hobolt & C. Wratil: Public opinion and the crisis 253
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School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A
2AE. email: c.wratil@lse.ac.uk
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This work was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council
[W88918G] and the Leverhulme Trust [RF-2013-245]. We would also like
to thank Demosthenes Ioannou, Patrick Leblond, Arne Niemann and the anon-
ymous reviewers for insightful comments and suggestions.
SUPPLEMENTAL DATA AND RESEARCH MATERIALS
Supplemental data for this article can be accessed on the Taylor & Francis
website, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2014.994022.
NOTES
1 Only very few studies have examined how the economic and political context con-
ditions the effect of identity and utility concerns on attitudes towards the EU.
One exception is Garry and Tilley (2009), who find that the impact of identity in
EU attitudes is conditional on economic context, as identity matters less in net ben-
eficiary member states.
2 Eurobarometer Surveys. Data and documentation made available by GESIS. Reports
available at http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion.
3 We use all spring waves of the survey to create a coherent time series. Since the ques-
tion item on national identity was unfortunately included less frequently in the
surveys, we also use two autumn waves in which the identity item occurred: EB
64.2 (2005) and EB 80.1 (2013). (For source details of Eurobarometer Surveys
please see note 2 above).
4 This reliance on different models and datasets may bias our estimates upwards or
downwards, as we are not able to control for all independent variables while assessing
the change in one of them. However, since we are more interested in the change of
effects over time and less in the absolute magnitude of effects, such bias is less pro-
blematic, as it will apply to the estimates at both points in time.
5 One complication we have to address is that some countries joined the euro just
before and even during the crisis (Cyprus, Estonia, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia).
Excluding these countries is not a sensible option, as we would lose too many obser-
vations. Hence, we code all 17 countries that had joined the EA by January 2013 as
part of EMU in all waves. Thereby, we make sure that we are drawing inferences
about the same target population in the pre-crisis and crisis estimations of the
models. However, the results are substantially the same if we, for instance, exclude
Estonia and Slovakia from the analysis (both joined during the crisis).
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Ce point de vue étroit néglige des dimensions du régionalisme qui sont aujourd'hui au coeur des recherches en relations internationales qui portent sur les régions. Nous soutenons que ces recherches devraient plutôt explorer les préférences publiques concernant la coopération régionale dans différents domaines d'intérêt. Nous constatons que les opinions de la population sur la coopération régionale en Amérique du Nord diffèrent de leur attitude envers l'intégration commerciale à elle seule. Nous nous appuyons sur des données issues de Rethinking North America, une enquête d'opinion publique inexploitée qui a été menée en 2013 au Mexique, au Canada et aux États-Unis, et nous montrons que bien que les attitudes nationales envers l'intégration commerciale en Amérique du Nord étaient sim-ilaires, les préférences pour la coopération régionale variaient par pays selon la question concernée. Nous proposons l'idée selon laquelle les attitudes des citoyens seraient façonnées par la manière dont ils perçoivent les schémas asymétriques entre les avantages nationaux et les vulnérabilités créées par la coopération régionale. En règle générale, les personnes interrogées étaient favorables à la coopération lorsque leur État était susceptible d'en tirer des avantages en termes de capacité et s'y oppo-saient lorsque la coopération imposait des coûts plus élevés en termes d'autonomie nationale. Pour les décideurs politiques, cette approche multifacette du régionalisme apporte un éclairage sur les domaines dans lesquels les préférences publiques pour la coopération régionale risquent de converger. De futures recherches désagrégeant les divers aspects du soutien à la coopération régionale devraient aider à intégrer l'étude de l'opinion publique à de « nouvelles » approches régionales com-paratives mettant l'accent sur des aspects du régionalisme allant au-delà du commerce et des institutions formelles. Los estudios sobre la opinión pública en relación con el regionalismo tienden a centrarse en cuestiones relativas a la in-tegración comercial y a organizaciones regionales específicas. Este enfoque limitado pasa por alto las dimensiones del re-gionalismo que se encuentran en el centro de las investigaciones de las Relaciones Internacionales sobre las regiones en la actualidad. En cambio, sostenemos que en las investigaciones se deberían explorar las preferencias del público con respecto a la cooperación regional en diferentes áreas temáticas. Descubrimos que las opiniones de las personas sobre la cooperación regional en América del Norte divergen de sus actitudes respecto a la integración comercial por sí sola. A partir de los datos de Rethinking North America, una encuesta de opinión pública sin precedentes realizada en México, Canadá y Estados Unidos en 2013, demostramos que, aunque las actitudes a nivel de país respecto a la integración comercial en América del Norte eran similares, las preferencias por la cooperación regional variaban por país en función del tema en cuestión. Proponemos que las actitudes se forman en función de las percepciones de los ciudadanos sobre los patrones asimétricos de beneficios y vulnerabilidades a nivel nacional creados por la cooperación regional. En general, las personas encuestadas están a favor de la cooperación cuando el Estado puede obtener mayores beneficios en materia de capacidad y se oponen a ella cuando la cooperación impone mayores costos a la autonomía nacional. En el caso de las personas encargadas de elaborar las políticas, este enfoque polifacético del regionalismo brinda claridad sobre las áreas en las que podrían converger las preferencias de los ciudadanos por la cooperación regional. Las investigaciones futuras en las que se desglosen los distintos aspectos del apoyo a Fairbrother, Malcolm et al. (2022) Issue-Areas, Sovereignty Costs, and North Americans' Attitudes Toward Regional Cooperation. Global Studies Quarterly , https://doi.org/10.1093/isagsq/ksac011 la cooperación regional deberían contribuir a integrar el estudio de la opinión pública con los enfoques regionales "nuevos" y comparativos que hacen hincapié en los aspectos del regionalismo más allá del comercio y las instituciones formales.
... Ever since the plans for a European Monetary Union and a single European currency were announced, social scientists have explored the determinants of public attitudes towards the new currency (see e.g., Banducci et al., 2003Banducci et al., , 2009Brettschneider et al., 2003;Deroose et al., 2007;Gärtner, 1997;Guiso et al., 2014;Hobolt & Leblond, 2009, 2014Hobolt & Wratil, 2015;Kaltenthaler & Anderson, 2001). This study falls into this area of research by analysing the longest time series collected to date for public support for the single currency, covering the period 1990-2014 for a 12-country sample of the euro area (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spainthe EA-12). ...
... This contribution explores the evolution and determinants of public support for the euro, using the largest up-to-date database on public opinion of the euro since its inception, available from March-April 1999 (EB 51) to November 2017 (EB88). It falls within the tradition of studies of the determinants of public support for the euro that have sprung up in recent decades (as a prominent example, see Banducci et al., 2009, Deroose et al., 2007, Hobolt & Leblond, 2014, and Hobolt & Wratil, 2015. This debate is about whether and under which circumstances the euro has been supported by citizens, in particular on the macroeconomic and microeconomic impact on public support. ...
... 1. Studies of public support for a common currency in the years before the introduction of the euro, that is from 1990 until 1999, e.g. Kaltenthaler and Anderson (2001) and Banducci et al. (2003); 2. Analyses of public support for the euro in the pre-crisis period from 1999 to 2008, such as Banducci et al. (2009) and Deroose et al. (2007); 3. Contributions dealing with the crisis phase from 2008 to 2013, including Hobolt and Leblond (2014), Hobolt and Wratil (2015), and Roth et al. (2016); and 4. Recent papers focusing on the impact of the recovery from the crisis from 2013 onwards, for example Roth et al. (2019). ...
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