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The 2014 European Parliament Elections: Divided in Unity?*
London School of Economics and Political Science
The winners of the 2014 European Parliament elections were eurosceptic parties, often
found on the fringes of the political spectrum. Parties critical of, or even hostile to, the
European Union topped the polls in France, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Denmark
and Greece, gaining almost 30 per cent of the seats in the European Parliament. Does this
eurosceptic surge indicate a rejection of the European project by a growing number of
voters across Europe? Was support for these parties a sign that voters wanted less Union,
or perhaps a different Union?
This contribution examines the context and outcome of the 2014 European elections.
Previous elections to the European Parliament (EP) elections have generally been charac-
terized by lacklustre and domestically focused campaigns and voter apathy, but two fac-
tors set these elections apart: they took place in the context of the worst economic crisis in
post-war Europe and the political groups in the EP had for the rst time nominated lead
candidates to compete for the post of European Commission president. Many hoped that
the increased saliency of European issues and the constitutional strengthening of the link
between the EP ballot and the policy direction of the Commission would both mobilize
voters to take part in the elections in greater numbers and encourage them to provide a
democratic mandate for the future direction of the EU. The EP even put up large bill-
boards in the run-up to the elections proclaiming This time its different.
Were these elections different? On the face of it very little changed. Turnout remained
low at 42.6 per cent, government parties were the losers and smaller parties the winners,
and the introduction of lead candidates seemed to have gone unnoticed by most citizens
(see Hobolt, 2014a; Treib, 2014; Schmitt et al., 2015a). Hence, the most European aspect
of these elections was the fact that concerns about the EU, and its handling of the crisis,
dominated the rhetoric in a number of countries and shaped vote choices. However, the
ndings of this study also show considerable variation not only in the electoral appeal
of eurosceptic parties across countries, but also in the reasons for voterssupport.
Whereas the radical right parties performed well in Northern Europe, and to a lesser
extent in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), they gained only a handful of seats in the
Member States that were recipients of a credit arrangement, or bailout, from the EU
(Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain). In these debtor states, the critique of the
EU was expressed by parties on the radical left instead.
, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main
Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
* I would like to thank the Annual Review editors, Nathaniel Copsey and Tim Haughton, for very insightful comments on
previous versions of this contribution.
JCMS 2015 Volume 53 Annual Review pp. 621 DOI: 10.1111/jcms.12264
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
The analysis of individual-level data from the 2014 European Election Studies (EES)
reveals that support for leftist eurosceptic parties was not driven by a rejection of the
European project, but by discontent with austerity policies and a desire for more European
solidarity. In contrast, support for the anti-EU radical right in the north was more
evidently motivated by an opposition to immigration and to transfers of funds to other
Member States. Europethus played a more central role in these European elections than
ever before, but the outcome also exposed deep divisions in opinions on the future of the
European Union. Citizens who were most vulnerable in the economic downturn the
losers of globalization were most likely to vote for eurosceptic parties. However, in
the richer countries in the north, voters adversely affected by the crisis favoured less
Union and closed borders, whereas similar voters in the south were calling for more
European solidarity and integration. These contrasting narratives of how to solve the
crisis are also evident in the national media coverage. The ndings of this study thus
highlight the challenges facing European politicians as they seek to nd common solu-
tions to the continents problems.
This contribution proceeds as follows. First, it discusses the political and economic
context of the 2014 EP elections and the national debate on the EU in the period leading
up to the vote. Thereafter, it examines the support for eurosceptic parties and individual-
level motivations, analysing a cross-national post-electoral survey. Finally, it discusses
the broader implications of these elections for the future of the EU.
I. European Elections: No Longer Second-Order?
Elections to the EP ostensibly provide a unique opportunity for the citizens of the EU to
shape the policies and the future of the Union. When direct elections to the EP were in-
troduced in 1979, the hope was that this would enhance the democratic dimension of
EU policy-making by creating a legislative chamber that was accountable to and
representing votersinterests (Rittberger, 2005; Hix et al., 2007). But rather than legiti-
mizing the EUs authority, scholars and commentators alike have argued that the EP elec-
tions have failed to bring about the genuine electoral connection between voters and EU
policy-makers that was hoped for. At the heart of the problem is the so-called second-
order national electionnature of EP elections (Reif and Schmitt, 1980; van der Eijk
and Franklin, 1996). According to the second-order electionexplanation, voters treat
EP elections as midterm elections. As a consequence, most voters simply do not care
enough about these elections to even cast a vote. Turnout has declined in successive EP
elections from 62 per cent in 1979 to just below 43 per cent in 2014.
Those who do turn
out to vote tend to use their ballot to punish their national incumbent or vote on the basis
of policy preferences relevant in a domestic policy space, rather than to decide on the
issues facing the EU.
Numerous studies have shown that parties in national government are punished, partic-
ularly during the (national) midterm, and that larger parties are disadvantaged (see e.g.
Marsh, 1998; Hix and Marsh, 2007). These patterns of behaviour are generally interpreted
However, it is worth noting that this decline in average levels of turnout in EP elections can be largely accounted for by
the changing composition of the EU electorate due to the multiple EU enlargements to countries often with lower turnout
habits in general elections, especially in CEE (see Franklin, 2001).
European Parliament elections 7
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
as voters responding to the low-salience context of EP elections, and have led to the con-
clusion that European elections have largely failed in providing a strong democratic man-
date for policy-making at the EU level. There were good reasons, however, to expect that
the 2014 European Parliament elections would be different: less second-order national
electionsand more truly European contests about the future direction of European inte-
gration. The reasons were two-fold: the introduction of lead candidatesfor the position
of Commission president and the eurozone crisis.
Starting with the institutional innovations, the EP took advantage of a constitutional
change in the Lisbon Treatys Article 17, which stated that the results of the EP elections
should be taken into accountwhen selecting the next Commission president (see Dinan,
2014). To reinforce this link between the EP ballot and the selection of the Commission
president, the major EP political groups decided for the rst time to each rally behind a
common lead candidate (Spitzenkandidat in German) for the post of the next President
of the European Commission: Jean-Claude Juncker for the European Peoples Party
(EPP); Martin Schulz for the Party of European Socialists (belonging to the Socialists
& Democrats group); Guy Verhofstadt for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for
Europe (ALDE), Ska Keller and José Bové for the European Green Party; and nally,
Alexis Tsipras for the Party of the European Left. Thus, in theory at least, the 2014 EP
elections allowed voters to give a mandate to a specic political platform for the EUs
executive body, the Commission, since a vote for these parties was also a vote for one
of the lead candidates as Commission president.
The Parliaments hope was that this
would strengthen the European element in the campaigns, personalize the distant Brussels
bureaucracy, and thereby increase interest and participation in European democracy
(European Parliament, 2013; Hobolt, 2014a).
The second factor making these elections different from previous ones was the eco-
nomic and political context. At the time of the elections in June 2014, the EU had been
experiencing several years of severe economic crisis. The euro areas sovereign debt
problems became increasingly evident in 2009 with the downgrading of government debt
in many European states, particularly in the so-called GIIPScountries (Greece, Ireland,
Italy, Portugal and Spain). Concerns intensied in early 2010 and thereafter, leading the
EU to implement a series of nancial support measures such as the European Financial
Stability Facility (subsequently the European Stability Mechanism).
These euro-rescue
measures targeted at helping countries in a severe sovereign debt crisis came with strings
attached, including government promises of scal austerity and structural reforms. A
series of new legal instruments (the Six-Pack, the Two-Pack, the Macroeconomic
Imbalances Procedure), new decision-making procedures (the European Semester) and
a new inter-governmental treaty, the Fiscal Compact, were aimed at more tightly
constraining national scal policy-making. The ongoing attempts to rescue countries
on the brink of bankruptcy and avoid the collapse of the eurozone, and the more formal
institutional changes to economic governance, were extensively covered in the national
media across Europe. Section II looks at the coverage of Europe in the media and the
shifting public mood.
On the appointment of the new President of the Commission see Dinans contribution to this volume.
On eurozone governance see Hodsons contribution to this and previous issues of the Annual Review.
Sara B. Hobolt8
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
II. The Debate on Europe: Converging or Diverging?
As a consequence of the euro crisis, the EU issue became more salient in the national pub-
lic sphere than ever before. This manifested itself in two ways. On the one hand, the pub-
lic debate on the crisis was more Europeanizedthan previously. Across Europe the
national media debated similar issues, and European actors (such as Angela Merkel and
José Manuel Barroso) were prominent in the domestic media landscapes (see Kriesi
and Grande, 2014). On the other, domestic media coverage continued to be characterized
by distinct national perspectives on the crisis, and the EP election campaigns were also
dominated by national parties and national politicians.
Moreover, there were elements of the campaign that indicated an increasing divisive-
ness and disintegration, as the national discourses on the crisis diverged. Studies on how
the euro crisis has been portrayed in the media have pointed to clear manifestations of a
blame game, with different interpretations of who is to blame for the crisis (Hänska
et al., 2013; Reuters Institute, 2014). For instance, in Southern Europe, the hardship
and unemployment of the euro crisis are often linked to the conditions associated with
bailout agreements, attributed in part to Germany. In contrast, sections of the media in
northern European countries, such as Germany and Finland, have argued that GIIPS
countries have themselves to blame for the crisis. A large-scale study of media coverage
of the euro crisis directed by Oxford Reuters Institute
provides insights into whom the
national newspapers portrayed as bearing the main responsibility to solve the crisisin
the period between 2010 and 2012 (see Table 1). Interestingly, the national studies reveal
a relatively convergent view that the European Union bears the main responsibility
for solving the crisis either the eurozone countries (44 per cent) or the EU as a whole
(28 per cent). In some countriesmedia coverage, debtor countries themselves are also seen
to bear the responsibility. That is a view found mainly in coverage in Finland, Germany and
Belgium, and perhaps more surprisingly in Spain. A much smaller proportion of news cov-
erage also points to creditorcountries as the main culprit, whereas the IMF, banks and
other lenders are mentioned far less frequently (see Table 1).
The Euro Crisis, Media Coverage, and Perceptions of Europe within the EUproject was directed by Oxford Reuters In-
stitute. More than 10,000 articles from 40 newspapers in 9 countries were analysed in the project, between 2010 and 2012.
Table 1: Media Coverage of Who Bears the Main Responsibility for Solving the Crisis (%)
Belgium Finland France Germany Italy The
Poland Spain UK
Euro group 44 57 60 37 35 60 26 22 53
Central Bank
29 19 15 18 34 16 50 35 30
Countries with sovereign
debt problems
20 22 12 22 21 16 9 28 10
Countries without sovereign
debt problems
106135 311143
IMF, banks and other lenders 6 2 7 10 5 5 4 1 4
Source: Reuters Institute (2014)
Note: Percent of articles on the crisis that mention an actorwith main responsibility for solving the crisis. Excludes none
and others.
European Parliament elections 9
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Studies of the media coverage in the years leading up to the 2014 elections thus point
to an increasingly integrated Europeanized public sphere where the same European is-
sues, European actors and EU responsibility appeared prominently in the news coverage
across Member States. However, the national framing also remained dominant and the
crisis was viewed from a distinct national perspective (see Kriesi and Grande, 2014;
Reuters Institute, 2014).
Not surprisingly, the EUs response to the crisis also affected citizensattitudes toward
the European Union. Survey data show that citizens became increasingly aware of the
euro crisis and more likely to hold the EU, rather than their national governments,
responsible for the economic circumstances in their country in the period leading up to
the 2014 elections (Cramme and Hobolt, 2014; Hobolt and Tilley, 2014; Hobolt,
2014b). At the same time, Eurobarometer data show there was a marked decline in trust
in the European Union. Between the 2009 and 2014 elections, the percentage of people
who tend to trustthe EU declined by 16 percentage points from 47 to 31 per cent,
and similarly those who had a positive image of the EU declined from 45 to 35 per cent.
While trust in national governments also declined in the same period, this decline was less
steep. But how did these developments in the institutional procedures, the campaigns and
peoples attitudes toward Europe translate into voting behaviour in the 2014 elections?
III. Voting Behaviour in the 2014 Elections
Given the rise in salience of European integration, and the strengthened link between the
vote and executive politics in the EU, it was not unreasonable to expect that voters would
be more motivated to turn out than in previous elections. While initial indications sug-
gested a small increase in turnout, participation levels were in fact slightly below the
2009 level. Hence, although the EP was successful in ensuring that the lead candidate
of the winning political group (EPP), Jean-Claude Juncker, eventually became Commis-
sion president, it is less obvious that the introduction of lead candidates made a substantial
difference to voting behaviour. Evidence suggests that the lead candidates did have a mo-
bilizing effect on the minority of voters who had knowledge of the candidates, especially
in countries where they had campaigned (see Schmitt et al.,2015a). However, only a mi-
nority of Europeans were able to identify which political party the candidates belong to
only 19 and 17 per cent could link Juncker and Schulz, respectively, to their parties and
hence for the vast majority of citizens, these candidates made little difference (see also
Hobolt, 2014a).
There was signicant variation across the EU in levels of participation, as shown in
Figure 1. Most of that variation can be explained by three factors that are not directly re-
lated to the European nature of the elections, namely compulsory voting rules, concurrent
national elections and a relatively recent history of Communist rule. The most powerful
predictor of turnout at European elections is compulsory voting (Belgium, Cyprus,
Greece and Luxembourg) or a history of compulsory voting (Italy). It is well known that
compulsory voting raises turnout, even when it is not strictly enforced, especially in low-
salience elections (Franklin, 2001). A second factor is concurrent national elections that
bring voters to the polls, such as the national and regional elections in Belgium and the
See Eurobarometer surveys 20072014.
Sara B. Hobolt10
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
presidential elections in Lithuania (the latter helps explain the remarkable 21 percentage
points increase in turnout compared to 2009). Finally, turnout in post-communist coun-
tries is signicantly lower than in the rest of the Union. The may be due in part to general
low levels of partisanship and political mobilization in these countries (Wessels and
Franklin, 2009) and the fact that Europe is a less salient issue in CEE (Haughton, 2014;
Haughton and Novotna, 2014).
While there was no great leap in participation levels, that is not to say that these elec-
tions were not distinctly more Europeanthan in previous ones. At rst glance, the out-
come of the elections appears very similar to the 2009 elections: the centre-right EPP
remained the largest party, but was also the electionsbiggest loser as its seat share
dropped from 36 to 29 per cent; it was followed closely by its centre-left rival, the Social-
ists & Democrats, with 25 per cent (the same as in 2009). The eighth European Parliament
also includes the centrist ALDE group, with 9 per cent (down from 11 per cent in 2009),
and the Greens, with 7 per cent of the seats (as in 2009). The clearest winners, however,
were parties that belong to the groups more sceptical of the EU: on the right the European
Conservatives and Reformists group (9 per cent, up from 7 in 2009) and the European
Freedom and Direct Democracy group (6 per cent, up from 4); and on the left the United
Left Group (7 per cent, up from 5) as well as the 52 members (7 per cent, up from 4)
who are not attached to any grouping.
The clearest indication that voters were more concerned about European issues was the
surge in popularity for political parties that proposed radical reform of, or even exit from,
the EU. The rise in the eurosceptic vote was therefore the message that dominated the
headlines in the aftermath of the EP elections, and sent shock waves through domestic po-
litical systems. The most striking result was that radical right eurosceptic parties, which
had never been in government, topped the polls in France, the UK and Denmark. This
was not an isolated phenomenon. With the exception of Malta, all EU countries had a
eurosceptic party gaining more than 2 per cent of the popular vote, although with consid-
erable cross-national differences in their level of popularity. Overall, 220 of the EPs 751
Figure 1: Turnout in the 2014 European Parliament Elections.
European Parliament elections 11
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
members (MEPs) represented eurosceptic parties, accounting for 29 per cent of MEPs, as
shown in Table 2.
Of course, not all eurosceptic parties are the same. Euroscepticism may be broadly de-
ned as a sentiment of disapproval toward European integration, and this classication of
eurosceptic parties includes both softand hardeurosceptic parties (Taggart and
Szczerbiak, 2004). Soft eurosceptic parties are those that accept the idea of European in-
tegration but oppose specic policies or institutional aspects of the EU, such as Syriza in
Greece, the Conservative Party in Britain or Fidesz
in Hungary. Hard eurosceptic parties
include parties that reject the European integration project as such and tend to advocate a
countrys withdrawal from the EU, such as the Freedom Party in Austria and the UK
Independence Party in Britain (see Treib, 2014). The parties classied as eurosceptic in
Table 2 belong to both categories and have been included in the list because a signicant
proportion of their campaign rhetoric and manifesto was devoted to a critique of the EU.
Most eurosceptic parties are found on the fringes of the leftright political spectrum, al-
though a few adopt more centrist positions (such as the British Conservative Party and
the Polish Law and Justice party) or reject any leftright classication (such as the Italian
Five Star Movement).
While these parties share a critical, or even hostile, attitude to the European Union,
they vary considerably in the nature of their position on the leftright spectrum and there-
fore also in their views on other issues, such as redistribution, immigration and civil lib-
erties. The leftright positions also translate into differences in the critique of the EU.
Right-wing criticism is traditionally centred on nationalism and thus opposition to the ex-
ternal threats to national sovereignty and of immigration (Mudde, 2007; Mair and Mudde,
1998). In contrast, the critique from left-wing parties of the EU is rooted in an anti-
capitalist ideology and call for greater state intervention and redistribution both nationally
and internationally. However, while much divides the radical right and the radical left,
they share a eurosceptic, nationalist and often populist, rhetoric that cuts across traditional
leftright alignments (Halikiopoulou et al., 2012). In the context of the 2014 EP elections,
the concern about threats to national sovereignty and opposition to EU institutions and
policies were shared by eurosceptic parties on both the right and the left, often combined
with populist and anti-establishment rhetoric. However, the anti-immigration rhetoric was
far more pronounced on the right (especially in Western Europe), while the anti-austerity
rhetoric was more pronounced on the left.
As shown in Table 2, the majority of eurosceptic parties are found on the right, often
on the far right. The popularity of radical right-wing eurosceptic parties is particularly
pronounced in northern European creditor states: Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands,
Finland and the UK: in other words, in the richer Member States that have generally
beneted the most from the single market, but where there has also been a signicant
increase in social inequality (Copsey, 2015). The eurosceptic right also did very well in
Italy and France, as well as in CEE, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and
Slovakia. Yet we also saw the success of radical left eurosceptic parties in a handful of
Fidesz is unusual among eurosceptic parties, as it belongs to the pro-European EPP but its leader Victor Orbáns rhetoric
has become increasingly hostile towards the EU (for example, he compared EU bureaucrats to Soviet apparatchiks). Orbán
has described his position as eurorealistrather than eurosceptic.
The classication has been cross-referenced with expert judgements in the Chapel Hill Expert Survey, as well as other
academic work on eurosceptic parties, notably Treib (2014).
Sara B. Hobolt12
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Table 2: Eurosceptic Parties in the 2014 European Parliament elections
Country Parties* Eurosceptic
Left vote %
MEPs Eurosceptic
Right vote %
Austria Freedom Party [R], EUStop [R], Coalition for another Europe [L] 2.1 0 22.5 4
Belgium Vlaams Belang [R]; PTB-GO! [L] 2.0 0 4.3 1
Bulgaria VMRO-BND/Bulgaria without Censorship [R]**, National Front [R], ATAKA [R] - - 16.7 2
Croatia Croatian Party of Rights [R] - - ** 1
Cyprus Progressive Party of Working People [L]; ELAM [R] 27.0 2 2.7 0
Czech Republic Communist Party [L]; Party of Free Citizens [R]; Dawn of Direct Democracy [R] 11.0 3 8.4 1
Denmark Danish Peoples Party [R]; Peoples Movement against the EU [L] 8.1 1 26.6 4
Estonia Conservative Peoples Party of Estonia [R] - - 4.0 0
Finland Finns Party [R] - - 12.9 2
France National Front [R]; Left Front [L]; France Arise [R] 6.3 3 28.7 23
Germany Alternative for Germany [R]; Left Party [L]; National Democratic Party [R] 7.4 7 8.1 8
Greece Syriza [L]; Golden Dawn [R]; KKE [L]; ANEL [R]; Popular Orthodox Rally [R] 32.7 8 15.5 4
Hungary Fidesz [R]; JOBBIK [R] - - 66.1 15
Ireland Sinn Fein [L] 19.5 3 - -
Italy Five Star Movement [R]****; Northern League [R]; The Other Europe with Tsipras [L] 4.0 3 27.3 22
Latvia National Alliance [R]; Union of Greens and Farmers [R] - - 22.5 2
Lithuania Order and Justice [R]; LLRA [R] - - 22.3 3
Luxembourg Alternative for Democratic Reform [R] - - 7.5 0
Malta - - - - -
Netherlands Freedom Party [R]; Socialist Party [L]; CU-SGP [R] 9.6 2 21.0 6
Poland Law and Justice [R]; Congress of the New Right [R]; United Poland [R]; Right Wing of the Republic [R] - - 42.9 23
Portugal United Democratic Coalition [L]; Left Bloc [L] 18.6 4 - -
Romania Peoples Party - Dan Diaconescu [L]; Greater Romania Party [R] 3.7 0 2.7 0
Slovakia Ordinary People and Independent Personalities [R]; Nova [R]; Freedom and Solidarity [R];
Slovak National Party [R]
- - 24.6 3
Slovenia United Left [L]; Slovenian National Party [R] 5.5 0 4.0 0
Spain United Left [L]; Podemos [L]; Peoples Decide [L] 20.1 12 - -
Sweden Sweden Democrats [R]; Left Party [L] 6.3 1 9.7 2
United Kingdom UKIP [R]; Conservative Party [R]; Sinn Fein [L]; Democratic Unionist Party [R] 0.7 1 50.6 44
Total MEPs 50 170
*Only parties with more than 2% of the national vote or 1 MEP have been included
**VMRO-BND formed a coalition with Bulgaria Without Censorship, a soft eurosceptic party, and other smaller parties, and their 2 MEPs joined the eurosceptic ECR Group.
***Croatian Party of Rights dr. Ante Starčević(HPS AS) formed an electoral alliance with three other parties. The HSP AS member sits in the ECR group, whereas the other coalition
members sit in the EPP Group. The coalition got 41% of the votes.
European Parliament elections 13
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
countries. Interestingly, the eurosceptic left did well in the countries that experienced the
most severe anti-austerity programmes and conditionality associated with their bailout
packages, namely in Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Ireland and Portugal, where the parties polled
an average of 24 per cent.
These voting data clearly demonstrate the heightened appeal of eurosceptic parties in
the 2014 EP elections. Moreover, they point to important northsouth and eastwest
differences: in the richer north, the radical right parties performed very well; in the poorer
south-west (and Ireland), where the EU had imposed conditions of austerity and structural
reform in return of credit, radical left parties did well, whereas there was a notable
absence of radical right parties. In CEE, the eurosceptic parties on the right generally
performed well, although voter apathy was more pronounced than vocal euroscepticism
in this part of Europe (see Haughton and Novotna, 2014). These aggregate-level data,
however, tell us less about the motivation of voters across Europe. In the next section, I
analyse individual-level data to address the question of why eurosceptic parties were
IV. Explaining the Eurosceptic Vote
What explains support for eurosceptic parties in the 2014 EP elections? As discussed
above, the classic explanation for voting behaviour in European elections is the
second-order national electionexplanation (Reif and Schmitt, 1980, p. 9; see also van
der Eijk and Franklin, 1996; Hix and Marsh, 2007). In comparison to rst-order national
elections, where the formation of a government is a primary objective, strategic consider-
ations about party size and government performance matter less in second-order EP
elections, and consequently voters are expected to vote more sincerely, focusing on
ideological similarities. Moreover, voters may be motivated by a desire to punish national
governments. Yet recent work on electoral behaviour in Europe has argued that the issue
of European integration is becoming increasingly politicized, and this has meant that the
issue of European integration matters more to voters (Tillman, 2004; De Vries, 2007;
Hooghe and Marks, 2009). Studies of the 2004 and 2009 elections have shown that
euroscepticism plays a considerable role in votersdecision to defect and abstain, but that
this is conditioned by the politicization of the EU issue in the national political debate
(Hobolt et al., 2009; de Vries et al., 2011; Hobolt and Spoon, 2012). Hence the extant lit-
erature highlights three sets of factors which shape vote choices in EP elections: rst, sin-
cere ideological considerations, such as leftright and libertarianauthoritarian attitudes;
second, dissatisfaction with the current (national) government and policy performance;
and nally, attitudes that are specically related to the European Union and European
Electoral behaviour in EP elections is therefore often regarded as a protest vote:a
protest against the incumbent national government or, indeed, against the direction of
European integration. Since these elections remain second-order, they allow voters to
express their dissatisfaction with the political establishment and policy performance with-
out the constraints that voters feel when they are selecting a national government. Yet this
does not render the elections insignicant. EP elections matter not only for policy-making
in the EU, but also as barometers of citizenspreferences and as markersin national pol-
itics. In the context of an economic crisis in Europe, the fact that voters endorsed parties
Sara B. Hobolt14
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
on the fringes of the political spectrum therefore seems unsurprising. But it still leaves
several questions unanswered: if the rise of parties on the fringes was a protest vote, what
were voters protesting against? How does this vary across Europe?
These questions can be addressed by analysing the EES 2014 a post-election survey
with representative samples in each of the 28 Member States (Schmitt et al., 2015b).
This study allows us to examine the factors that motivated citizens to support eurosceptic
parties across the EU. We examine support for both left-wing and right-wing eurosceptic
parties by analysing responses to the EES question how probable is it that you will ever
vote for this party?on an 11-point scale. The distinct advantage of this question is that
we are able to measure support for eurosceptic parties among all respondents and not just
those who voted in the EP elections.
To examine the determinants of eurosceptic vote
choice, we rstly measure individualssocio-economic position by including a set of de-
mographic variables (gender, age, education,
and unemployment) as well
as a variable capturing individuals adversely affected by the crisis.
Second, we include
a variable that captures individualsideological attitudes toward the government
the economy.
Third, we capture ideology using questions on economic redistribution,
immigration and combating crime versus civil liberties.
Finally, we include various
questions that capture attitudes toward European integration
and EU policies on
trans-national redistribution,
scal integration
and approval of EU performance dur-
ing the crisis.
We also include a measure of (objective) knowledge of the European
Table 3 shows the results from a multi-level linear regression model of eurosceptic
party support with random intercepts for political system.
I have run separate models
for left- and right-wing eurosceptic parties (see Table 2) and for Western Europe with
more established party systems and longer democratic traditions and post-Communist
CEE, with less established party systems and lower salience of EU issues (Haughton,
2014; Haughton and Novotna, 2014). The results show both striking similarities and
Approximately 1,100 respondents were interviewed in each EU member country, totalling 30,064 respondents. The EES
2014 was carried out by TNS Opinion between 30 May and 27 June 2014. All the interviews were carried out face to face.
More information can be found here:, where the EES questionnaire can also be
I also ran the models with vote choice in EP elections as the dependent variable (1= Eurosceptic Left/ Eurosceptic Right
party) and the same explanatory variables come out as signicant in these models.
Age of ending full-time education.
Dummies for respondents in a working-class occupation (unskilled or skilled manual labour) and in a professional/ man-
agerial position.
Loss of income and/or loss of job in the household over the past 24 months.
Disapproval of the governments record to date.
General economic situation over the next 12 months in country.
Opposition to the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor in country; Opposition to a restrictive policy on im-
migration; In favour of restricting privacy rights to combat crime
Opposition to European unication.
Disagreement with the statement: In times of crisis, it is desirable for the [COUNTRY] to give nancial help to another
European Union Member State facing severe economic and nancial difculties.
Opposition to EU authority over the EU Member Stateseconomic and budgetary policies.
Disapproval of the actions of the EU during the last 12 months.
A scale based on correct responses to six factual knowledge questions on the EU and the lead candidates.
Estimating the models with country xed-effects or clustered standard errors by country yields very similar results.
European Parliament elections 15
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
important differences across support for eurosceptic parties (left and right) and regions
(west and CEE).
Starting with the similarities, we can see that people who are economically disadvan-
taged are more likely to support the eurosceptic parties: those in working-class occupa-
tions, the unemployed and those who have been adversely affected by the crisis. In
other words, it is the losersof European integration, and globalization, who are most
attracted to eurosceptic parties and there are a lot of them, as a result of the uneven dis-
tribution of the single markets benets over the past 30 years (Copsey, 2015). It is also
noteworthy that supporters of these parties are generally dissatised with the performance
of both their national government and the European Union. This suggests that the
eurosceptic vote is a classic protest against the political establishment among those who
feel that that mainstream parties have let them down and those who have suffered most
in the crisis.
Turning to the differences, we notice that the ideological motivations for supporting
these parties vary considerably across party types and region. To illustrate the magnitude
of these differences, Figure 2 shows the marginal effects (minmax) of each of the signif-
icant explanatory variables on eurosceptic party support (0-10). When it comes to left
right preferences, it is perhaps unsurprising that supporters of right-wing parties in the
west are opposed to both redistribution and immigration, whereas support for left-wing
eurosceptic parties in the west is driven by a contrasting set of attitudes, favouring
Table 3: Explaining the Eurosceptic Vote
Eurosceptic Right Eurosceptic Left
West East West East
Coef SE Sig Coef SE Sig Coef SE Sig Coef SE
Female 0.49 0.05 ** 0.12 0.06 ** 0.05 0.06 0.14 0.13
Age 0.01 0.00 ** 0.02 0.00 ** 0.02 0.00 ** 0.02 0.00 **
Education 0.14 0.04 ** 0.06 0.05 0.08 0.04 0.38 0.11 **
Professional occupation 0.18 0.09 0.26 0.12 ** 0.36 0.11 ** 0.75 0.29 **
Working-class occupation 0.47 0.09 ** 0.15 0.09 0.23 0.10 ** 0.28 0.18
Unemployed 0.10 0.10 0.18 0.10 0.09 0.10 0.53 0.23 **
Adversely affected by the crisis 0.09 0.04 ** 0.07 0.04 ** 0.10 0.04 ** 0.26 0.07 **
EU knowledge 0.04 0.02 0.14 0.03 ** 0.15 0.02 ** 0.13 0.06 **
Government disapproval 0.19 0.03 ** 0.02 0.03 0.43 0.03 ** 0.13 0.06 **
Economic pessimism 0.08 0.03 ** 0.08 0.04 ** 0.02 0.03 0.02 0.08
Anti-civil liberties 0.08 0.01 ** 0.03 0.01 ** 0.04 0.01 ** 0.04 0.02
Anti-redistribution (national) 0.09 0.01 ** 0.01 0.01 0.20 0.01 ** 0.01 0.02
Antiimmigration 0.16 0.01 ** 0.00 0.01 0.11 0.01 ** 0.03 0.02
Anti-EU unication 0.10 0.01 ** 0.02 0.01 ** 0.00 0.01 0.03 0.02
EU performance disapproval 0.16 0.04 ** 0.13 0.04 ** 0.17 0.04 ** 0.17 0.08 **
Anti-EU redistribution 0.33 0.03 ** 0.09 0.03 ** 0.26 0.03 ** 0.17 0.07 **
Anti-EU scal integration 0.08 0.01 ** 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.02 0.02
Constant 0.84 0.27 ** 2.92 0.35 ** 4.58 0.33 ** 1.85 0.57 **
N, groups 13,481 10,124 13,062 2285
Note: Multi-level logistic regression of propensity to vote for Eurosceptic parties (see Table 2).
**p<0.05. Source: EES 2014
Sara B. Hobolt16
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Figure 2: The Eurosceptic Voter.
European Parliament elections 17
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
immigration and redistribution from rich to poor. In contrast, in CEE these ideological
considerations were far less signicant as a predictor of party support (see Figure 2b
and 2d).
Figure 2a shows that anti-immigration attitudes were the most important driver
of right-wing eurosceptic support, whereas Figure 2c shows that pro-redistribution atti-
tudes were the key motivation behind left-wing eurosceptic support. This is of course also
areection of the rhetoric and policy positions of these parties. Right-wing eurosceptic
parties in the west have been able to successfully link their opposition to the EU to more
salient concerns about immigration (from inside and outside the EU), whereas left-wing
eurosceptic parties have related their critique of the EU policies to a more general anti-
austerity platform.
Most interesting is the relationship between EU attitudes and the support for
eurosceptic parties. One might have expected euroscepticism to be a key predictor of
both right- and left-wing party support, given that a distinguishing feature of these parties
is their critical position on European integration. However, that is not the case. We nd a
strong association between euroscepticism opposition to European unication and
opposition to specic EU policies and supporters of right-wing eurosceptic parties in
the west. However, general attitudes toward European integration are not a signicant
predictor of support for left-wing eurosceptic parties, such as Syriza and Podemos. If
anything, supporters of these parties are more pro-European than mainstream party sup-
porters. Moreover, they clearly favour greater nancial transfers between EU Member
States (a preference shared with supporters of right-wing eurosceptic parties in CEE).
Supporters of left-wing eurosceptic parties in the west are also far more knowledgeable
about the EU than the average voter.
Hence, far from being disengaged and anti-European, the ndings suggest that the
eurosceptic left-wing vote in the west is a call for a different Europe with greater solidar-
ity and redistribution across and within European borders. Supporters of eurosceptic
parties in the east also favour greater European redistribution and have a critical stance
on the EUs handling of the crisis. In contrast, supporters of eurosceptic right-wing parties
in the west favour closed borders, less integration and less redistribution.
Many inside the European institutions had high hopes for the 2014 European Parliament
elections, as they marked the introduction of genuine contests between candidates for the
Commission presidency. However, evidence suggests that these lead candidates were rec-
ognized by only a small proportion of the electorate. Instead of a contest between candi-
dates with competing visions for Europe, the elections were dominated by national parties
and the key Europeanfeature of these elections was the success of parties that were
highly critical of the EU. Eurosceptic parties won 29 per cent of the seats in the EP,
and topped the polls in several countries.
The success of these parties is not wholly surprising in the context of a deep economic
crisis for which the EU was held at least partly responsible by the media and by ordinary
citizens (Hobolt and Tilley, 2014; Kriesi and Grande, 2014; Reuters Institute, 2014). In
the period leading up to the elections, unemployment rates for the EU reached a post-
But note that pro-redistribution attitudes are a signicant predictor of left-wing eurosceptic party support also in CEE.
Sara B. Hobolt18
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
war high. The situation was particularly grave in the debtor states, such as Greece and
Spain, where a quarter of the workforce was excluded from the labour market and youth
unemployment was even higher. As a result of this crisis and policy measures adopted in
response to the crisis, the EU was more salient than ever in the national media. Yet this
Europeanized public debate was accompanied by distinct national narratives of the crisis
and blame-shifting to the EU and other countries. In response, citizens become more
critical of the EU, and trust in mainstream parties and national government also declined.
This contribution has investigated whether the electoral success of eurosceptic parties on
the fringes of the leftright spectrum is an expression of protest against national
governments and parties, as the second-order election theory would predict, or whether
voters cast their ballots with distinctly European questions in mind.
Of course, national and European politics are inherently intertwined, which makes it
difcult to distinguish between nationaland Europeanpreferences. Nonetheless, our
analysis of individual-level voting behaviour suggests that the success of eurosceptic
parties was driven, at least in part, by distinctly European concerns, especially in Western
Europe. First, we nd that those individuals who were most vulnerable in the crisis were
most likely to support eurosceptic parties. Our analysis shows that the support for
eurosceptic parties was particularly high among those adversely affected by the crisis
(the unemployed, the young, the manual workers and those who experience a reduction
in income etc.). Second, the ndings show that supporters of eurosceptic parties share a
disapproval of both national government and the EUs performance during the crisis.
Importantly, however, our analysis also points to signicant differences. In the richer
north the far right generally performed better, driven by opposition to immigration as well
as to closer EU integration and transfers of resources to other Member States. In contrast,
support for the left-wing eurosceptic parties was most pronounced in the southern Euro-
pean countries that were hit hardest by the crisis and received credit from the EU and
other lenders. Supporters of these parties were not averse to closer European integration
and favoured a Europe of greater redistribution, across and within countries, and more
open borders. Thus while disapproval of the EUs handling of the crisis seems to unite
these voters of the left and the right, their vision for a better Europe is radically different.
Hence, the 2014 EP elections may well have been the most Europeanelectoral con-
tests to date, yet they also revealed deepening divisions in Europe, between the winners
and the losers of economic integration and between south and north and east and west. The
legitimacy of the European Union has always rested on the idea that it brought about greater
prosperity for all its Member States rather than substantial redistribution between Member
States. The euro crisis has called this basic premise into question not only due to the severity
of the economic downturn but also because of the evident need for nancial support, at least
in the short term, for some Member States, especially poorer southern European countries,
from the richer neighbours in the north (Copsey, 2015). The electoral appeal of eurosceptic
parties in the north calling for less solidarity, contrasted with the demand for more solidarity
by popular eurosceptic parties in the south, starkly illustrates the difculty of establishing
closer scal integration in the Union without further alienating a large group of voters.
The success of the eurosceptic parties is unlikely to transform policy-making in the
European Parliament, where the pro-European centrist political groups continue to dom-
inate. However, the results did send shock waves through a number of national political
systems, by giving radical parties an important foothold and by signalling to governments
European Parliament elections 19
© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
that many voters wanted a different direction for Europe. The fact that the visions for re-
form of the EU differ so radically across (and within) nations point to the challenges ahead
when it comes to nding common solutions for Europe. Rather than being united in diver-
sity, as the EUs motto proclaims, the elections highlight that Europeans are increasingly
divided in unity: they have been forced closer together, politically and economically, by
the necessities of the eurozone crisis, yet this has only accentuated the lack of a common
European outlook and the fragility of European solidarity.
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© 2015 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
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The European Union (EU) faces two parallel trends of growing polarization. Externally, ambitious climate action has become more contested and global power relations are shifting. Internally, European elections brought more Eurosceptics to Parliament, altering its political majorities and making it more difficult for mainstream parties to continue the European Parliament’s (EP) long-standing policy positions such as ambitious climate policy. We analyze the impact of growing internal and external polarization trends on Members of European Parliament (MEPs) and political group’s positions on EU foreign climate policy ambitions between 2009 and 2019. Using an original dataset of plenary debates, we find that the EP as a whole has remained surprisingly stable in its support of ambitious foreign climate policy. Yet, when looking at the qualitative details of MEPs’ positions, we uncover significant variance in the ways in which MEPs from various political groups perceive the EU’s global role over time.
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After only two years as a “single issue Eurosceptic party” (Taggart, 1998, p. 368), the AfD developed into a full-fledged member of the European populist radical right party family. Clearly, the party has radicalized in the cultural dimension, appeals to voters who want to flag out their anti-establishment protest, and the intensified refugee immigration to Germany has additionally catalysed its electoral success. On the contrary and typical for the literature on European populist radical right parties, the role that the economic dimension played in the rise of the party family’s German offshoot remains largely in the dark. This dissertation confirms that as for many European populist radical right parties, also for the AfD, the economic dimension is “secondary” (Mudde, 2007, p. 119). However, the empirical analyses also reveal that the AfD employs its subordinate issue strategically in line with the political opportunity structure and its electorate’s demands. The party’s anti-statist (ordo-)liberal economic positioning matches the preferences of even the deprived layers of its electorate – an exception within the European party family – and constitutes an important pillar for the party’s electoral success. What is more, the AfD successfully plants its seed in economically distressed regions and municipalities that are disappointed by poor public services. The party lights up the narratives of undeserving immigrants, widely shared in the German society and tabloid press. In fact, all over Europe different varieties of welfare chauvinism encroach upon economically left-leaning groups of voters. Due to their opposing economic policy demands, the AfD has not yet found its way into these electoral layers, however, increasing welfare chauvinist policy proposals signal first rapprochements. In the end, the unique German populist radical right’s economic policy outline allows a glimpse on the potential dividing lines within the highly diverse European group of parties. The AfD’s most recent demand for ‘Dexit’, the German exit from the European Union, shows the difficulties to hold together the populist radical right party family: Not only does the AfD oppose the loss of German sovereignty, but its nativist core ideology also bars the party from contributing billions of German tax money to other (mostly Eastern and Southern European) countries. Fierce disputes within the party family over economic policies and the distribution of EU funding are the price for a rigid nativism and the room to manoeuvre European populist radical right parties maintained in their secondary dimension: economics.
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A key component of democratic accountability is that citizens understand 'who is to blame'. Nonetheless, little is known about how citizens attribute responsibility in the European Union or how those perceptions of responsibility matter. This book presents the first comprehensive account of how citizens assign blame to the EU, how politicians and the media attempt to shift blame and finally, how it matters for electoral democracy. Based on rich and unique data sources, Blaming Europe? sheds light on all three aspects of responsibility in the EU. First, it shows that while institutional differences between countries shape citizen judgements of EU responsibility, those judgements are also highly determined by pre-existing attitudes towards the EU. Second, it demonstrates that neither politicians nor the media assign much blame to the EU. Third, it establishes that regardless of whether voters are capable of accurately assigning responsibility, they are not able to hold their EU representatives to account via the ballot box in European elections due to the lack of an identifiable 'European government' to reward or punish. As a consequence, when citizens hold the EU responsible for poor performance, but are unable to sanction an EU incumbent, they lose trust in the EU as a whole instead. In conclusion, it argues that this 'accountability deficit' has significant implications for the future of the European Union.
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The 2014 European Parliament elections saw an unprecedented surge of support for Eurosceptic parties. This article provides an overview of the ideologically highly diverse Eurosceptic camp in the European Parliament and addresses the causes and consequences of the Eurosceptic vote. Based on an analysis of aggregate election results and opinion-poll data, it argues that the electoral success of Eurosceptic parties cannot be dismissed as a mere protest vote against unpopular governments. Instead, fundamental worries about the effects of European Union (EU) policies and dissatisfaction with mainstream politics lie at the heart of the Eurosceptic success. The selection of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the Commission, backed by overwhelming majorities in the European Council and the European Parliament, suggests that Eurosceptics, despite their considerable electoral support, will continue to be excluded from the EU's corridors of power. This strategy of exclusion provides the ideal breeding ground for an even stronger Eurosceptic backlash in five years' time.
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The European Parliament promised voters that the 2014 elections would be different. According to its interpretation of the Lisbon Treaty, a vote in these European elections would also be a vote for the President of the Europe's executive, the Commission. To reinforce this link between the European elections and the Commission President, the major political groups each nominated a lead candidate, Spitzenkandidat, for the post. This article examines how this innovation affected the 2014 elections. It concludes that the presidential candidates did not play a major role in the election campaigns, except in a handful of countries, and thus had a limited impact on voter participation and vote choices. However, the European Parliament was very successful in imposing its interpretation of the new modified procedure for electing the Commission President, not shared by all national governments, and this will have important implications for the inter-institutional dynamics in the Union and the future of European democracy.
The populist radical right is one of the most studied political phenomena in the social sciences, counting hundreds of books and thousands of articles. This is the first reader to bring together the most seminal articles and book chapters on the contemporary populist radical right in western democracies. It has a broad regional and topical focus and includes work that has made an original theoretical contribution to the field, which make them less time-specific. The reader is organized in six thematic sections: (1) ideology and issues; (2) parties, organizations, and subcultures; (3) leaders, members, and voters; (4) causes; (5) consequences; and (6) responses. Each section features a short introduction by the editor, which introduces and ties together the selected pieces and provides discussion questions and suggestions for further readings. The reader is ended with a conclusion in which the editor reflects on the future of the populist radical right in light of (more) recent political developments - most notably the Greek economic crisis and the refugee crisis - and suggest avenues for future research. © 2017 2017 selection and editorial matter, Cas Mudde; individual chapters, the contributors.
The 2014 European Parliament elections were the first elections where the major political groups each nominated a lead candidate (Spitzenkandidat) for the Commission presidency in the hope that this would increase the visibility of the elections and mobilize more citizens to turn out. Using data from the 2014 European Elections Study, an EU-wide post-election survey, we analyse whether and how the presence of the lead candidates influenced the individual probability to participate in these elections. Our findings show that the recognition of the candidates increased the propensity to turn out, even when controlling for a host of other individual-level factors explaining turnout and the context factors known to facilitate participation. Furthermore, the campaign efforts of the lead candidates are associated with higher turnout levels and are reinforced by candidate recognition.
Voters behave differently in European Parliament (EP) elections compared to national elections because less is at stake in these ‘second‐order’ elections. While this explains the primary characteristic of EP elections, it has often led to a conflation of distinct motivations for changing behaviour – namely sincere and protest voting. By distinguishing these motivations, this article addresses the question of when and why voters alter their behaviour in EP elections. In addition, it argues that the degree of politicisation of the EU in the domestic debate shapes the extent to which voters rely on EU, rather than national, considerations. These propositions are tested in a multilevel analysis in 27 countries in the 2009 EP elections. The findings have important implications for understanding why voters change their behaviour between different types of elections.
Why have the national governments of EU member states successively endowed the European Parliament with supervisory, budgetary, and legislative powers over the past fifty years? Building Europe's Parliament sheds new light on this pivotal issue, and provides a major contribution to the study of the European Parliament. Rittberger develops a theory of delegation to representative institutions in international politics which combines elements of democratic theory and different strands of institutionalist theory. To test the plausibility of his theory, Rittberger draws on extensive archival material and offers theory-guided, in-depth case studies of three landmark decisions in the history of the European Parliament: the creation of the Common Assembly of the ECSC in 1951 and the concomitant acquisition of supervisory powers vis-à-vis the quasi-executive High Authority; the delegation of budgetary powers following the signing of the Treaty of Luxembourg in 1970; and the delegation of legislative powers resulting from the adoption of the Single European Act signed in 1986. This is followed by the charting of more recent key developments, culminating in the adoption of the Constitutional Treaty in 2004. The book provides a welcome addition to the literature on institutional design by reflecting on the conditions under which governments opt for the creation and empowerment of parliamentary institutions in international politics. It also makes a valuable contribution to the application of democratic theory to the study of the European Union by demonstrating that political elites shared the view that the new supranational polity which emerged from the debris of World War II suffered from 'democratic deficit' since its inception, thus disproving the claim that the lamented 'democratic deficit' is a recent phenomenon. Winner of the European Union Studies Association Prize for Best Dissertation 2002-2004.