This project examines the conditions under which European citizens support international cooperation in controversial policy areas. We examine international cooperation in the context of fiscal integration in the European Union (EU). EU fiscal integration is highly controversial and is assumed to lead to a Euroskeptic backlash. Yet, in a historical decision in July 2020, European governments agreed on the ambitious recovery package ‘Next Generation EU’. This established an unprecedented fiscal stabilization capacity to address the economic and healthcare challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our project has two main emphases.
First, we study the mass politics of EU fiscal integration in a survey experiment on public support for a European pandemic recovery fund (PRF) in five European countries in 2020. We find remarkably high support for a joint European fiscal instrument, which, however, is sensitive to policy design. While cross-country differences reflect collective self-interest, citizens’ left-right orientations, their EU positions, and perceived economic risk from COVID-19 structure differs within countries.
Second, we study the conditions under which support for fiscal integration depends on elite communication by political parties. Party cueing research suggests that parties have considerable leverage over public preferences, but it is unclear to what extent public opinion is responsive to cueing on specific, far-reaching integration steps that directly affect national autonomy. We use a pre-registered information treatment experiment in five countries to study the effects of information on voters' preferred party (in-party cues) and their least-preferred party (out-party cues) on support for international cooperation.
We find that political parties have ample latitude to shape preferences about international cooperation, as both in-party and out-party cues affect voter preferences. This pattern is robust across countries and across citizens with different ideological priors on international cooperation.