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FMG Research Priority Area

European Politics and Society (EPS)

Theme Leaders

prof. dr. W. (Wouter) van der Brug

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Challenges to Democratic Representation

prof. dr. C.H. (Claes) de Vreese

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

CW : Political Communication & Journalism

Theme

European Politics and Society (EPS)

Political contestation over European unification has reached unprecedented levels. This contestation has developed since the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, followed by the introduction of the Euro in 2001, the enlargement of the EU with 13 additional member states from 2004 onwards and the increasing popularity of Eurosceptic politics. The current wave of contestation comes partially from populist parties at the radical left and radical right ends of the political spectrum in most members states, while support for the European project comes mainly from established parties in the centre of the political spectrum. Many scholars see the issue of European unification as part of a larger conflict dimension, which also includes other issues with a socio-cultural component, such as immigration. There would be a socio-structural component to these changes as well, with lower-educated citizens (as the ‘losers of globalisation’) being more sceptical towards European unification and immigration than better educated citizens (the ‘winners of globalisation’). At the same time it is becoming increasingly clear that what citizens have in mind when they express their opinions about the EU is diverse and EU attitudes today are rather multi-dimensional in nature. This happens at a time where the communication landscape and information ecology are rapidly changing and electoral processes are being challenged by increased information choice and disinformation.

While many things are known about changes in the party systems as a result of the politicization of Europe and immigration, the subsequent rise of populist parties, and about the socio-structural support base of those parties and their voters’ media preferences, a number of key questions have not yet been answered. What are the relevant dimensions of EU attitudes today? People who fit the sociological profile of ‘losers of globalisation’ tend to support the radical right, but not the radical left. How do we explain this? Younger generations are more supportive of European integration than older generations. Yet, at the same time, some radical right parties tend to be more popular among younger voters than among older ones (like the PVV in the Netherlands). How do we explain this paradox? What role does the changing communication landscape, including traditional and social media, play in all of this?

Core affiliates of the European Politics and Society Theme will be drawn primarily from the FMG Research Groups in Communication Science, Political Science, and Sociology.