Prosperity and views about the European Union

Josh Tucker sent me this paper by Alexander Herzog and himself on attitudes toward the European Union in different European countries. Here’s the abstract:

In this paper, we [Herzog and Tucker] document a hitherto unrecognized “micro-macro paradox” of EU accession in post-communist countries: on the micro-level, economic prosperity increases the likelihood of supporting EU membership; while on the macro-level, economic prosperity decreases aggregate levels of support for EU membership.

We first present evidence demonstrating that economic winners were consistently more likely to support EU membership than economic losers across five years (1995, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2003) and ten countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Czech Republic). We then demonstrate that across this same set of countries we are unable to find a systematic corresponding link between aggregate level measures of economic prosperity and aggregate levels of support for EU membership. Moreover, in almost every analysis where we can find a consistent pattern, it is in the opposite direction: less economic success translates into higher levels of aggregate support for EU membership. Our explanation for the micro-macro paradox of EU accession builds off of previous work by one of the authors (Tucker et al. 2002) suggesting that for citizens in post-communist countries the EU represents a guarantee that the economic reforms will continue. However, we argue here that there may be other meanings for EU membership as well and that the relative salience of these different meanings may in particular be conditional on the passage of time and on a country’s likelihood of joining the EU. We then demonstrate how this more nuanced approach to the meaning of EU membership in the post communist context both explains the original paradox and test the extent to which additional observable implications of the argument are supported by the data.

Interesting. It makes sense to me that poor countries should want to join the EU, because it’s economically redistributional. Also, as Herzog and Tucker discuss, there’s the idea that the EU will protect your country from dictatorship. I don’t know enough about the internal politics of the EU to have a sense of why richer people within a country should support the EU. I mean, I know the whole story of populists vs. Eurocrats or whatever, but I don’t really understand where this is coming from. (I could easily imagine an opposite scenario in which upper-income voters would feel they have more to lose from the EU, with lower-income voters, especially in poor countries welcoming the opportunities that would come.)

I’d like to see some estimated varying slopes–I think this is in the article but it’s hard for me to find–and also data on support for EU in other European countries, not just the 10 east European countries in the dataset.

And, of course, I love that the connect this to our red-blue stuff.

2 thoughts on “Prosperity and views about the European Union

  1. I don't think you are right to project the populist/Eurocrat axis onto the revenues; it's more a question of age and training, especially speaking foreign languages. Older people tend to earn more, but have less formal education, so the effects on opinion should be separated.

    I actually think you might be misguided to use simple economics to explain Europeans' political opinion: of course, it generally works, but counter-examples like Poland's rapid re-election of post-Communist parties, after the initial Solidarnosk attempt is one of several examples where perception of risks, counter-effective values and fear of the unknown dominated oven good senses.

  2. I believe that immigration and free trade, two major features of the EU, are supported more heavily by wealthy Americans as well. I think the hypothesis is that they either think they benefit more from immigration and trade (raises marginal product of capital, land, and skilled labor perhaps) or differing values from the poor encourages them to support it.

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