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Rethinking representation and European integration

In representative democracy the chain of political legitimacy runs from voters to governments through votes cast at elections. In order for representation to occur, political parties must offer distinct policy platforms that citizens consider in their vote choices. This thesis examines whether citizens are adequately represented within the European Union. It finds that although representation on left-right issues occurs, it does not occur for European integration preferences. Over the course its history, European integration has changed from being primarily an economic issue to a social issue. This separation from the primary axis of political competition has increased the need for representation on EU issues directly. Political parties have polarised over European integration providing increased choice, but voters have not engaged with the issue. Examining how voters process party signals about policy positions shows that very few are affected by signals on the EU. Accounting for voters' cognitive biases suggests that the influence of EU issues in European Parliament elections has been overestimated and is non-existent in most member-states. As direct democracy might offer an alternative to inadequate representation this thesis examines why referendums have been held on the EU but finds that they are largely driven by governments' desire to contain the threat of EU issues at national elections, further undermining representation. However, as a result of institutional differences between national and European Parliament elections rather than the emergence of the EU as an electoral issue, the size of party systems at European Parliament elections has grown considerably over successive elections in many member-states, a change that has fed into national party systems. Although representation on EU issues is inadequate, the expansion of European party systems and the redrawing of the lines of political competition offers some hope that representation on EU issues might improve in the future.
Date January 2015
CreatorsProsser, Christopher
ContributorsEvans, Geoffrey
PublisherUniversity of Oxford
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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