Causal Attributions to the European Union: Not Just Support for European Integration

Working paper presented at the Fifth Pan-European Conference on EU Politics, in the panel Assigning Credit and Blame in the European Union.  Porto, Portugal, June 2010.

Abstract: Perceptions of the EU's influence on national conditions vary greatly. What explains why some voters believe the EU is doing a good job, while others perceive it to be a negative influence? And, how does this differ from more general support for European integration? Drawing on attribution theory in political and social psychology and the literature on support for European integration, we develop several hypotheses to explain the determinants of citizens' attributions of causal responsibility. Using multilevel modeling with data from the 2009 European Election Studies voter survey, the empirical analysis demonstrates that the factors associated with support for European integration and attributions of causal responsibility to the EU are overlapping, but not identical. Causal attributions of responsibility are drawn from attitudinal biases and perceptions of the EU's performance based on national-level conditions. The findings of these analyses present an important addition to the literature on public opinion and democracy in the European Union.

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