The Myth of Postnational Identity: Popular Support for European Unification

Mathieu Deflem
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Fred C. Pampel
University of Colorado

This is a copy of an article in Social Forces 75(1):119-143 (1996).
Also available in PDF format.

Please cite as: Deflem, Mathieu, and Fred C. Pampel. 1996 “The Myth of Post-National Identity: Popular Support for European Unification.” Social Forces 75(1):119-143.

Analyses in this article employ Eurobarometer Surveys 18, 25, 31a, and 37 made available by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research We thank Eve Darian-Smith for guidance in reviewing literature on the European Union, and John Bendix, anonymous reviewers, and the editor for suggestions on previous drafts. Direct correspondence to Mathieu Deflem.


The study of popular support for unification of Europe raises issues about the role of identification with national interests versus support for postnational identity in determining attitudes across countries and over time. It also raises issues about the roles of traditional cleavages in class position and partisan ideological views versus differences in postmaterialist values in determining support for unification. Using data for individuals sampled within member-states of the European Community in 1982, 1986, 1989, and 1992, the analyses show persistent differences between countries in their support even after equalizing for national differences in sociodemographic, ideological, and value priority variables over the 10-year time span of the study, which favors theoretical arguments for the continued importance of national identity.

With the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty by the member-states of the European Community in 1993, the countries of Europe have moved toward reshaping the design of Europe and, in an era of globalization, worldwid political and economic affairs. The effective realization of Europe's unification may create an unprecedented challenge, for citizens and scholars of Europe alike, to make sense of an expression that hitherto referred to a continent composed of nation-states that were geographically, economically, and to some extent politically connected but nonetheless sovereign.

Europe's unification began with the Treaty of Rome in 1957, when Belgium, France, the former West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands formed the European Economic Community (EEC) providing for cooperation in economic matters (see, generally, Milward 1993; Pinder 1991a; Urwin 1991). Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark joined the EEC in 1973, followed by Greece in 1981 and Portugal and Spain in 1986. The Single European Act of 1986 arranged for the creation of the European Community (EC), a political as well as economic unification of Europe, by January 1993. The framework of this Europe without frontiers for the movement of people, services, goods, and capital was finally stipulated in the Treaty on European Union, or the Maastricht Treaty, signed on 7 February 1992 (Ross 1992a, 1992b). The Maastricht Treaty, named after the town in the Netherlands where the agreement was signed, was ratified by all member states of the newly formed European Union (EU) in October 1993, when the German Constitutional Court approved its country's participation.(n1)

Yet movement toward unification requires more than the treaties and policies negotiated by the members of various EC councils, administrative units, and national representatives. The success of Europe's unification depends to no small extent on the support it receives from the citizens of the members of the European Community. As Jurgen Habermas (1975, 1979) argues, the survival of democratic political systems of advanced capitalist societies rests on popular legitimation in the cultural sphere, regardless of their level of performance in the realm of economic production.(n2) Moreover, capitalist democracies experience the problem of legitimation acutely: their high economic performance produces high expectations that political systems cannot guarantee to maintain during fiscal crises. Similar processes of legitimation would seem equally important for the survival capacities of a supranational entity such as the European Community.

Despite their importance, attitudes toward European unification are less studied than the organization and policies of the EC. Corresponding to a lack of interest on the part of Euro-officials (Wallace & Smith 1995), only a few studies devoted attention to the issue before and during the 1980s (e.g., Handley 1981; Hewstone 1986; Inglehart 1977). Recent research describes general trends and selected determinants of attitudes (e.g., Eichenberg & Dalton 1993; Janssen 1991; Niedermayer 1991; Worcester 1990), sometimes on the basis of samples from only one or two countries (e.g., Allington & Jones 1994; Baker et al. 1995; Menendez-Alarcon 1995; and articles in Fells & Niznik 1992 and Reif & Inglehart 1991). And although debate on the Maastricht Treaty has spurred scholarly work on attitudes toward the EC (e.g., Eichenberg & Dalton 1993; Franklin, Marsh & McLaren 1994; Gabel & Palmer 1995; Worcester & Mortimore 1994), many theoretical questions remain. In this article, we examine the sources of individual support for European unification among citizens of the EC countries. The sources relate to both country of citizenship and to social characteristics that link citizens across different countries.

Theoretical Perspectives

The extent to which European citizens favor or disfavor unification of Europe raises two questions. One, to what extent do the sentiments of citizens follow from the advantages or disadvantages they perceive unification of Europe to have for their own respective countries? Some view the national identity of Europe's citizens as crucial to support for the EC, while others view the growth of postnational identity as reducing national self-interest in determining views of European unification. Two, to what extent do traditional ideological and political cleavages differentiate attitudes toward European unification? Some may interpret the debate over unification in terms of the left and right, or the working and middle classes. Others may see the gradual decline of class conflict in postindustrial societies as accelerated by unification issues that transcend and fragment ideological cleavages and class categories.

First, one may interpret issues of European unification in terms of national identity. Most matters of economic and political importance have historically been framed in the context of sovereign nation-states. Rooted in the industrialization of Western societies during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, sociology has been nearly synonymous with the study of the nation-state. Even present conditions of globalization, broadly defined as the growing interdependence of localities across the world, may fail to substantially alter this approach (Cameron 1992; A. Smith 1990). While nation-states have undoubtedly given up some of their sovereignty to form a political world system, this process has at the same time witnessed a strengthening of the internal control of states (Giddens 1990) and reaffirmed states as the actors in international politics (S. Smith 1989). In this vein, it has been suggested that the construction of the European Community involved a limited surrender of national sovereignty precisely in order to rescue the nation-state (Kahler 1987; Milward 1993).(n3) This persistence of the nation-state coincides with a persistence of national identity. National identity is conceived here not as an objective fixed entity but as the subjective representation of allegiance toward one's country (Macdonald 1993). Inferring an endurance of national identity on the basis of continuing nation-state strength is theoretically grounded in the thesis that political citizenship has to this day been granted only by nation-states (de Lange 1995; Meehan 1993; Tassin 1994). To the extent that national identity persists, then, the citizens of the industrialized countries of Europe today will favor or disfavor political regimes, national and supranational, on the basis of the perceived worth they have for their own countries (Gabel & Palmer 1995; Menendez-Alarcon 1995).(n4)

On the other hand, some see the increasing globalization of communication and economic exchange as generating a decrease of popular interest in national concerns in favor of an increasing identification with issues beyond national borders (Cerutti 1992). The emergence of a cosmopolitan or collective political identity within the European Community (Delanty 1995; Inglehart 1990; Schlesinger 1991) would reinforce this general trend toward postnational identity. Such a view would highlight the growing importance of values with relatively universal appeal, such as human rights, the protection of civil liberties, social rights, and individual claims of self-determination. Thus, those identifying most closely with such transnational issues would most favor unification regardless of country of citizenship, and represent the forefront of a genuine postnational European identity.

Critics of this perspective of a postnational identity respond that, regardless of whether popularly favored or opposed values and sentiments refer to issues that are nation-specific or to issues that are identified with a larger community, they have to be framed within nation-states to become effective. Even issues contended and endorsed on the basis of universal values have until today found concrete expression only within the legitimate authority of nation-states (Habermas 1992b).

Second, in a related point, scholars differ on the relative importance of traditional class cleavages for attitudes toward European unification. A class-oriented view sees conflict between labor and capital as central to support for the EC, as it remains central for nearly all other political issues. A class analysis suggests blue-collar and relatively poor citizens will more strongly oppose unification of Europe because they fear losing their jobs and decreasing wages in an all too free and competitive European market. Their jobs may migrate to those countries with the lowest wages and highest unemployment. As labor unions have not yet successfully organized and centralized across national boundaries, a freer movement of capital, goods, and services can reduce the bargaining power of workers in wage deliberations. This also applies to citizens who are self-employed because they face a less flexible economic position than their counterparts organized in large business enterprises. However, given their relatively higher income, the self-employed may hold weaker anti-European attitudes than blue-collar workers. White-collar workers, in contrast, encounter less of an economic threat from low-wage countries than do blue-collar and self-employed workers. Large business owners, managers, and professionals with high income find more opportunity than threat in competition with most other European countries. These crude generalizations do not, of course, capture the complexity of industrial and occupational interests, but they do specify one possibly influential cleavage: higher-income business managers and professionals will support unification of Europe more than lower-income self-employed and blue-collar workers.

Given working-class opposition to unification, one might also expect greater opposition to unification from the left than from the right. Of course, political orientation has a complex relationship to popular support for unification of Europe. Those on the left may have economic concerns over the impact of free trade on the power of labor to increase wages and benefits and the power of governments to tax business. At the same time, leftists, who traditionally favor demilitarization, may welcome political unification as the expression of a peaceful community. Those on the right may also show ambivalence: they favor free trade but often oppose giving political and military power to supranational agencies, particularly when these powers may expand interventions in economic activity. Still, class and related ideological positions remain crucial, even if not dominant, determinants of individual attitudes toward European unification.

In contrast, some have argued that recent economic and social changes have transformed the importance of economic class power (Lange 1992). Popular protest over issues of capitalist economic development and state political power has declined in favor of protest over issues of new styles of life. This process has resulted in a new politics that been referred to as a "silent revolution" of postmaterialism (Inglehart 1986, 1990), and found expression in the emergence of new values and social movements of resistance and withdrawal (Gundelach 1992; Habermas 1987). Thus, value orientations may relate more closely to support for European unification than the traditional left-right cleavage. Postmaterialists concerned with issues of peace, the environment, and inequality may support European unification more than materialists (Inglehart & Reif 1991). These value orientations cut across traditional ideological loyalties to some extent, and particularly so in more recent periods.


We first specify hypotheses in static terms and then consider their dynamic implications.


Those arguing for the persistence of national identities would expect substantial differences in the amount of support each country gives to European unification. Moreover, these national differences would persist even with controls for individual status, class, and ideological variables. This does not claim that other individual factors fail altogether to influence attitudes toward European unification. Sociodemographic characteristics and ideological commitments very likely also shape popular support for unification of Europe. The persistence of national identities implies, however, that individual differences do not explain observed differences across countries. Influences of national identity, in other words, cannot be attributed to differences in sociodemographic composition or ideological makeup of the countries.

From news reports and survey data, we might expect citizens of Norway, Denmark, Great Britain, and Northern Ireland to have more negative attitudes toward Europe's unification than citizens of other European countries. Because Norway and Denmark have well-established and popular social welfare policies, their citizens may fear that European unification will impose a bureaucratic and capitalist system that erodes the social rights guaranteed by their own nation-states (Franklin, Marsh & Wlezien 1994; Siune & Svensson 1993; Siune, Svensson & Tonsgaard 1994). Citizens of Great Britain, an economically and politically strong state with a longstanding tradition of nationalism, may fear that the merger of their country into a unified Europe implies a loss of sovereignty that outweighs any possible gain. Great Britain, moreover, is geographically separated from the European continent and has a nationalist heritage of a markedly isolationist nature (Hewstone 1991; Pinder 1991b). Northern Ireland, characterized by an important religious divide between Protestants and Catholics, will in part reflect attitudes toward European unification similar to British nationals. Yet, if the Catholic community of Northern Ireland, like the citizens of (Catholic) Ireland, favors Europe's unification, it will balance Protestant opposition.

In contrast, more positive attitudes toward European unification likely exist in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Italy, France, and former West as well as East Germany. Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Greece, Spain, and Ireland lack the geographic and demographic size and the political and economic weight in European affairs of their larger neighbors. The citizens of these countries perceive their respective countries' membership in the European Community as an improvement in their economic benefits and political position. Citizens of Portugal, Greece, and Spain may, in addition, believe that joining the European Community will improve the relatively poor economic conditions in their countries (Sidjanski 1991). Citizens of Ireland may be more pro-European because they wish to affirm their identity over and against (anti-European) Great Britain. Because Italy is characterized by a marked economic inequality within its borders (between, for instance, the northern and the southern regions), and because of the many scandals involving Italian politicians, Italian citizens may be expected to express less nationalist and more pro-European sentiments. France and former West Germany, two of the dominant political and economic forces in Europe, may also have citizens who are more pro-European. Like Great Britain, these countries have sustained traditions of nationalism and may receive minimal economic gains from joining the EC However, the nationalist ideologies as well as the economic and political policies of France and former West Germany are not isolationist. Nationalism in France and former West Germany, therefore, may translate into favoring a strong position within, not apart from, unified Europe. Instead of the British quest for affirmation outside of Europe, citizens of France and former West Germany may exhibit sentiments for participation in Europe. Citizens of former East Germany, finally, can be expected to be more pro-European because of their desire, after the fall of the Communist regime, to strengthen ties with the richer and more democratic Western world.


A competing perspective would predict, when taken to the extreme, that cross-national differences in support of European unification stem from the differences in individual characteristics of the citizens in each country. If some countries show more higher levels of average support than others, these average national differences would disappear with controls for individual-level characteristics.

Several individual-level variables may influence support for European unification and may account for differences across countries. Of most importance, the sociodemographic factors of occupation and income and the ideological factors of political orientation (from left to right) and value priorities (from materialist to postmaterialist) relate to popular attitudes toward unification of Europe as discussed above. These individual variables, in particular, may vary sufficiently across countries to explain patterns of support for the European Community.

Other individual-level variables--age, sex, and education--may prove relevant as well. Because younger people have more cosmopolitan orientations, age could relate negatively to attitudes toward unification of Europe. Cosmopolitan concerns over environmental matters, to which the European Community has devoted much attention, might lead younger people to express more pro-European views. Older people may support a united Europe because of their higher sense of responsibility for matters involving a broad community of people, but their socialization during more nationalistic historical periods might predispose them to object to radical political change and the uncertainties it will bring, particularly when it involves collaboration with countries whom they once knew as enemies in war.

Gender may have some influence--albeit not large--on attitudes toward European unification. Without exaggerating the gender gap in political ideology, women may tend to oppose militarism and support international peace and cooperation more than men. Such attitudes may spill over into support for a political union among former combatants. Large differences within genders, however, likely minimize the impact of gender on attitudes and its ability to explain cross-national differences.

Education likely relates positively to popular support for European unification. Education exposes people to a broad range of ideas and to people of diverse ideological and national backgrounds. Therefore, it increases the likelihood that individuals will accept the establishment of a supranational entity and will view a community wider than their own country with less prejudice. In addition, the association of education may mediate the effect of age. Since the democratization of education has occurred recently, the younger generation may develop a more cosmopolitan orientation and more strongly favor a united Europe because of their larger opportunities for tertiary schooling

In summary, sociodemographic and ideological variables may relate to attitudes toward European unification in the direction we have specified. In addition, however, differences between countries in their support of unification may stem from the socioeconomic and ideological characteristics of individuals within each country. A straightforward compositional hypothesis would predict that socioeconomic and ideological differences would completely explain national differences: those countries most supportive of unified Europe have the most educated populace, the largest number of nonmanual professionals and managers, the largest proportion of high-income households, and the greatest support for postmaterialist value priorities.


Independent of whether most country differences transcend individual socioeconomic and ideological characteristics, we can consider the relative importance of the individual differences. We need not further discuss the arguments, but we can summarize their competing predictions. In static terms, class-based arguments predict that the primary determinants of attitudes toward European unification will stem from occupation or class characteristics and traditional leftist/rightist ideology. In contrast, postmaterialist arguments specify the primacy of differences in value priorities and related characteristics of education, age, and gender.


All the theoretical arguments have dynamic as well as static implications. At a descriptive level, we assume that European unification can generally count on support from most citizens in Europe. This support, moreover, may have increased somewhat from 1982 to 1992, confirming a trend set since the second half of the 1970s (Handley 1981; Inglehart 1977, 1990; Riffault 1991; Worcester 1990). In addition, however, one can make predictions about changes in the effects of the independent variables on the dependent variable. Arguments for the importance of postnational identity would claim that national citizenship will continue to influence European attitudes but will decline over time as forces of globalization promote postnational identity over national identity. Arguments for national identity predict that if change occurs, it will involve the rising importance of national identity as the reality of the European Community draws closer and the potential for economic and political conflict within the EC increases. Hence, debates over nationalism and postnationalism predict different trends in the effect of country of citizenship on support for the European Community.

Similarly, postmaterialist viewpoints do not discount altogether the importance of traditional class and class-based ideological positions, but they do argue that their importance as determinants of attitudes will decline relative to those for postmaterialism. Those favoring the importance of class suggest no such decline. In both cases, then, the theories predict not only a greater relative role in determining attitudes for one set of variables than the other, they also predict the continued importance over time of one set relative to the other.



To address the suggested hypotheses, we examine Eurobarometer surveys held in 1982, 1986, 1989, and 1992 (Eurobarometers 18, 25, 31a, and 37). The four surveys contain several common questions on attitudes toward European unification and on standard sociodemographic and ideological variables. The four cover the years leading up to and immediately after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. The surveys include probability samples of persons 15 years old and over for all member-states of the European Community. The survey samples thus change as the EC grows. For 1982 we have data on Denmark, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, the former West Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The surveys further separate U.K. respondents in Northern Ireland from those in Great Britain. The surveys since 1986 include Spain and Portugal, and the 1992 survey includes united Germany, separately reported for former East and West Germany, and Norway, the only country in the survey that does not belong to the EC.

With data on four years and on 11 to 15 countries (or political units within the United Kingdom and Germany), and excluding cases with missing values, the sample includes 5,371 respondents in 1982, 6,235 in 1986, 6,097 in 1989, and 8,034 in 1992. Three countries, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark, use national, multistage probability sampling, while the others use stratified national quota samples. However, the Eurobarometer data documentation notes that "taking into account region and the size of localities, respondents are chosen within selected sampling points to provide a regionally representative sample with respect to the criteria of sex, age and occupation."

When analyzing all the information available, including that for Spain, Portugal, East Germany, and Norway added after our first year of 1982, the country composition of the sample changes. Otherwise, keeping the same set of countries requires deleting cases on Spain and Portugal for three time points and Norway and East Germany for one. Therefore, we report results for all countries, but to account for the influence of the changing composition of countries in the sample, we replicate all runs for a common subset and report any differences.

The data are analyzed without weights, but we have replicated all runs with two types of weighting schemes. One set of weights adjusts for oversampling within several of the countries, the other for differences in sample size across countries and years. The former weights do not change the size of the country samples but accurately represent the proportion of sampled groups within the countries. The latter weights, by equalizing the number of cases for each country-year while maintaining the same overall N, ensure that no country or year gets undue influence because of its large sample size.(n5) For the descriptive statistics, neither weighting scheme changes the results: the reported figures differ by no more than 1% when using weights. For regression, Winship and Radbill (1994) recommend generally not using weights because they reduce the efficiency of the estimates (except when the weighted and unweighted results differ significantly and indicate misspecification). In our case, the within-country weights do not result in any statistically significant change in the coefficients, and the between-country weights only serve to increase the effects of dummy variables for Northern Ireland and Luxembourg, the two units with the smallest number of unweighted cases. Thus, the tables present results based on the unweighted data.


The sociodemographic variables age, family income (classified in quartiles within each country), and education (years of schooling since the age of five(n6) are measured and analyzed as continuous variables. For the variable gender, the male respondents are coded as 1. The variable occupation has the following four categories: blue-collar, self-employed, white-collar, and not employed. The last category is omitted in the regression equations. The need to use only four occupational categories comes from changes in measuring these categories in the different Eurobarometers. For example, new categories such as middle management used after 1986 might belong in either the white-collar or executive categories used in the earlier years. Our initial solution simply groups them all into the same nor manual category. However, given the possible importance of occupational distribution to differences across nations, we also discuss results using the more detailed measures. The ideological variables of political orientation and value priorities are measured in terms of, respectively, a self-placement-scale with scores ranging from 1 (extreme left-wing) to 10 (extreme right-wing) and an index with the scores 1 (materialist), 2 (mixed), and 3 (postmaterialist).(n7)

The dependent variable is based on three variables that in slightly different ways measure attitudes toward European unification. First, the variable European unification attitude, measured on the basis of the question "In general, are you for or against efforts being made to unify western Europe?" has four categories (very much for, for, against, and very much against). Second, EC membership attitude is a three-category variable based on the question "Generally speaking, do you think that (your country's) membership in the European Community (common market) is a good thing, neither good nor bad, or a bad thing?" Third, EC scrapped attitude is based on the question "If you were told tomorrow that the European Community (common market) had been scrapped, would you be sorry about it, indifferent, or relieved?" All dependent variables are recoded and analyzed in a pro-European direction.

Factor analysis revealed that in all four surveys these three variables measure only one underlying factor (see Appendix). The variance explained in all variables associated with the extracted factor is about 70% in each survey. The factor loadings are in all surveys highest for the variables measuring attitudes toward membership in, and scrapping of, the EC. For analysis, the dependent variable is represented by a scale, with a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1, based on the scores of the factor for all cases.


Before we examine the variables that may determine attitudes toward unification of Europe, we briefly discuss the level and evolution of popular support for European unification for all respondents in the surveys. As shown in Table 1, unification of Europe generally receives overwhelming popular support. The frequency distributions on all three dependent variables considered indicate this. In each survey, about 80% of respondents are for or very much for efforts made to unify Europe, with only some 8% to 17% of the respondents feeling relieved if the EC would be scrapped or judging their country's membership in the EC a bad thing.

In terms of the evolution of support for unification from one survey to the next, the results do not indicate any spectacular changes, although the pattern does point to increased support in the considered decade. Between 1982 and 1986, in particular, an increase in popular support for unification appears, but after 1986, levels remained fairly constant. The two variables with three categories have witnessed a shift in their distributions from the middle category to the category indicating pro-European attitudes. For the third variable, European unification attitude, the pull to extremities is less pronounced: the frequency of the pro-European category remains in all surveys higher than the frequency of the very pro-European one. Nonetheless, the latter has over the decade increased, whereas the former has declined, with slightly declining frequencies for the anti-European categories.

Does the changing country composition of the sample influence the evolution in the overall level of support? Anticipating some of the results discussed in more detail below, part of the change from 1982 to 1986 indeed comes from adding Spain and Portugal to the sample--both countries that exhibit above-average support for the EC. Yet percentages without these countries continue to reveal rising support. The addition to the sample of Norway, which shows lower support for integration than all other countries, affects the results in the opposite direction. With Norway included, Table 1 shows little in the way of change before and after Maastricht. With Norway (and, less important, East Germany) excluded, the results show a general increase in support. Thus, pro-European attitudes continue to grow in most countries.(n8)


Because we consider the signing of the Maastricht Treaty essential, we first examine the results of the 1992 survey. Conforming to the suggested hypotheses, we report the results of three separate models of analysis, each estimated with ordinary least squares. The first model examines the country differences in popular support for European unification. The second and third models successively measure the influences of the sociodemographic and the ideological variables and indicate the extent to which the initial differences between countries in their support of European unification stem from the sociodemographic and ideological characteristics of their citizens.


The first regression model examines country differences (represented by 14 dummy variables) on the dependent variable (Table 2). The average score on the dependent variable for the omitted category of Belgian citizens is .014, which confirms our hypothesis that Belgians are only slightly more pro-European than all Europeans on average. The results of the regression model, explaining 10.1% of the variance, show that the following countries have statistically significant higher scores than Belgium: the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Portugal. These results are consistent with our hypotheses except for the score of Spain, which we expected to lie closer to the scores of Portugal and Greece.

Confirming our hypotheses, the coefficients for Great Britain, Denmark and Norway are significantly negative. The results also indicate that anti-European sentiments emerge most strongly in the two Scandinavian countries. The coefficients for France and Northern Ireland show less support for unification than in the Benelux countries but more than in Great Britain and Scandinavia.


The second regression equation, which includes the sociodemographic variables, explains 13.1% of the variance, or 3.0% more than the model with country variables only. Considering the influences of the added sociodemographic variables, the results indicate that age has no significant relationship to popular support for European unification. Yet other variables prove more important. A difference of .122 standard deviation units exists between the male and female respondents. While small, the difference reaches statistical significance. Unexpectedly, the coefficient indicates that male respondents are somewhat more pro-European than female respondents.

Consistent with our hypothesis, education relates positively to popular support. The results for the variables occupation and family income also confirm our predictions: blue-collar and self-employed workers oppose European unification more than do white-collar workers. There is no difference between white-collar workers and the unemployed, but both groups favor unification more than blue-collar and self-employed workers. Of the sociodemographic variables, education and family income have the strongest impact.

The scores for the different countries net of controls for the sociodemographic variables fail to exhibit noteworthy changes from the gross country scores. In fact, the net coefficients of the countries in most cases prove more pronounced in the direction predicted by the hypotheses than the gross coefficients. This confirms that the influences of the sociodemographic factors do not account for the country differences.

Would more detailed occupational categories improve the predictive power of the sociodemographic variables? Although not comparable to occupational measures for earlier years, the 1992 survey allows use of 14 occupational categories. When added to the equation, dummy variables for each category (less one) do little to change the results. The variance explained rises by .00346 or, with 10 additional variables, by .000346 per variable. Also, the more detailed measures fail to further explain country differences or add much insight not available from the cruder categories. Thus, to maintain comparability across years, we continue to report the simple occupational categories.


The third regression model includes the ideological factors in addition to the citizenship and the sociodemographic variables. A multiple regression of popular support for European unification on all these independent variables reveals a coefficient of determination of 13.7, only a slight increase (but nonetheless statistically significant) compared to the previous equation. The results show that, controlling for the other independent variables, political orientation relates positively to popular support for European unification. This indicates that the favorable attitudes toward free trade of (pro-European) rightists, or the economic concerns of (anti-European) leftists outweigh countering influences of the anti-European right and the pro-European left. Postmaterialist value priorities, as expected, relate positively to attitudes toward European unification but have a weaker effect than political orientation (the standardized coefficients equal .080 and .039, respectively).(n9) As before, the country differences change little with controls for the ideological variables and reveal persistent and important differences between countries in their support of the EC.(n10)


To examine the determinants of the evolution of popular support for European unification, we undertake similar analyses for the Eurobarometer surveys of 1982, 1986, and 1989 (see Tables 3, 4, and 5). We first discuss the results of the sociodemographic and ideological variables, then we turn to the country differences (n11).

The effects of the sociodemographic variables remain fairly stable over the decade. Only age, gender, and education change significantly over time. Contradicting our expectation, age relates positively to popular support for European unification before 1992 but falls to zero in the last year. The effect of education remains positive in all years but becomes significantly smaller beginning in 1986. Relative to 1982, the support of males rises significantly in 1986 and 1989.

Turning to the ideological variables, the results continue to show that political orientation contributes more to variation in the dependent variable than do value priorities. We do see, however, that the influence of political orientation diminishes significantly between 1986 and 1989; the effect of value priorities increases, but not significantly. This result, then, offers limited support for a thesis of the gradual, but not yet accomplished, formation of a posttraditional identity (Janssen 1991).

Comparing the relative position of the countries over time shows general stability in rankings,(n12) but with movement of nations at the extremes toward the middle. Several nations relatively less supportive in 1982--Denmark, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and Greece--become significantly more supportive by 1992. Several nations relatively more supportive in 1982--West Germany, France, and Luxembourg--become significantly less supportive. This indicates some evidence of convergence in attitudes during the 1980s but nonetheless leaves a substantial gap between the pro-unity and anti-unity nations.

Discussion and Conclusion

Our results show that country differences in popular support for European unification emerge as more important than individual--sociodemographic and ideological--characteristics. While sociodemographic and ideological variables also shape attitudes toward unification of Europe, they do not account for country differences. The within-country influence of the sociodemographic variables shows in the stronger support of more highly educated and richer citizens and the lower support of blue-collar workers for European unification. More unexpected results emerge for the effects of age and gender on attitudes toward European unification. The positive coefficients for age indicate that older people's sense of responsibility toward a wider community outweighs the cosmopolitan orientation of young people. Moreover, the findings could indicate that most older citizens, especially those in countries that are long-time members of the EC, view European unification as a given, rather than a new, political reality. The results of the influence of gender indicate that male respondents favor unification of Europe more than females.

The influences of the ideological variables of political orientation and value priorities show some ambiguity. Postmaterialist value priorities relate positively to popular support for European unification, but the influence of political orientation proves stronger than the effect of value priorities. The more proEuropean attitudes of postmaterialist and right-wing oriented people--an unusual combination--reflect the importance of cross-cutting concerns in this area. The cosmopolitan orientation of postmaterialists contrasts with the nationalism of materialists, but the pro-free-market orientation of right wingers surpasses the antitapitalist sentiments of leftists. Although still early in the process, the potential gradual formation of a posttraditional identity manifests itself in the declining effect of political orientation and the increasing or stable effect of value priorities over the decade.

The sudden decrease of popular support for unification in the former West Germany and France in 1992 followed the heated controversy in these countries at the time of the signing of the Maastricht Treaty (Menendez-Alarcon 1995). In France, the left-wing political parties opposed European unification and mobilized forces against the EC. In Germany, the 1992 survey, which followed the reunification of Germany, reflected the polarization of attitudes toward Europe in the East and West. In former East Germany, unification strengthened the quest for democracy and an orientation to the West, whereas in former West Germany it led to a revival of anti-European nationalism. Conditions of uncertainty in France and Germany thus refurbished nationalist traditions in a more isolationist, anti-European manner. Indeed, both countries experienced the success of extreme-right political parties and outbreaks of xenophobic violence.

We suggested that citizens of Greece would exhibit more pro-European attitudes but did not predict the anti-European sentiments of Greek citizens before 1989. Perhaps the prevalence of anti-Western sentiments dissipated after Greece came to enjoy economic benefits from its EC membership and the popular Socialist Panhellic Movement had reversed its anti-European stance (Dimitras 1992). If so, it would confirm Inglehart and Rabier's (1978) theses that increase in a country's economic benefits from EC membership leads to greater support for unification and that length of membership in the EC relates positively to approval of a unified Europe. The former thesis could also explain the slight increase in support in Portugal and the latter thesis the relative decline in anti-Europeanism in Great Britain and Denmark from 1982 to 1992.

The persistence of country differences under conditions of control of selected variables indicates a continued commitment on the part of Europe's citizens toward interests pertaining to their own countries.(n13) It is important to note that persistence of national identity does not imply that Europe lacks popular legitimation because, as some suggest, structural pressures bolster patriotic pride and the ECs political framework entails a democratic deficit (Dahl 1994; Neunreither 1994). To be sure, the issue of democratic deficit, specifically in the form of the relative impotence of the European Parliament, will affect the future of unified Europe. Yet an exclusive focus on political power structures fails to ascertain the extent to which conditions of popular legitimation enhance or impair success of European unification regardless of the ECs organizational dimensions. Results of our analysis show that an overwhelming majority support European unification, even in those countries that are less supportive. However, it appears that, given the country differences, national identification explains pro-European as well as anti-European attitudes.

Theoretically, our conclusion relies on the proposition that political citizenship has not been guaranteed on any level beyond nation-states. In the European context, in particular, it should be noted that while a European citizenship is formally specified in the Maastricht Treaty ("Citizens of the Union"), it is primarily a legally sanctioned economic category, a free-movement "market citizenship," not a full-fledged citizenship of equal participation (de Lange 1995).

Moreover, recent events in Europe indicate an important variety of coexisting push and pull factors with respect to Europeanization and nationalization. Ambivalent currents arise not only at the level of ministerial summits and political processes, where national and European initiatives meet to conflict and/or harmonize, but also in Europe's changing public sphere, conceived as the institutionalized communicative structures beyond state and market (Habermas 1992c). For example, in Germany and France, attempts to establish a strong position within Europe have coincided with spasms of far-right extremism and concerns over German reunification and French nationalist cultural policies. In Belgium, the celebration of Brussels as the capital of Europe and the resulting "bureaucratic invasion" have not overruled tensions over the aspired pacification of Walloon/Flemish antagonisms with the country's political federalization. Or, in Great Britain, one of the more anti-European countries, opposition to a common European currency has coincided with remaining internal nationalist struggles (Parman 1993) and the country's resistance to, and factual participation in, the EC as it recently materialized in the controversy over the Channel Tunnel (Darien-Smith 1995). Affecting all of Europe's countries, though in different ways, the internal easing of border controls within the EC has been accompanied by continued ethnic dissensions and a closing of Europe's outside borders, amplifying debate over asylum and immigration (Habermas 1994b; Soysal 1994) and police and security in "Fortress Europe" (Bunyan 1993; Waever et al. 1993).

These trends indicate that conditions of confusion over sources of authority and decision-making may facilitate a continued identification with individual countries. In the absence of a developed European public sphere, particularly with respect to the media (Gerhards 1993), politically relevant identities remain mediated through familiar forms of association rooted in diverse national histories and cultures. Therefore, a crucial political paradox in contemporary Europe is not the simultaneous resurgence of nationalism and internationalism (Adam 1990), but the coexistence of different expressions of multiple forms of nationalism, fissiparous and unificffionist (Calhoun 1993).

The importance of country of citizenship as a central factor in explaining popular support for European unification has crucial and paradoxical implications. It suggests that both favorable and unfavorable orientations toward the supranational European Community emanate from national concerns. Thus, assessing whether the European Community will face a legitimation crisis requires scholars to take into account citizens' perceptions of their own countries' likelihood to benefit from the EC and the manner in which conflicting structural trends affect these perceptions. This perspective goes beyond descriptive analyses of the level of popular support the European Community enjoys. For instance, the relatively high level of anti-European attitudes in Great Britain and Denmark is well known (Inglehart & Rabier 1979; Worcester 1990). But less known is that pro-European citizens, too, may support a unified Europe not for Europe, but for the benefits they perceive unification will have for their own countries.

The European dilemma, then, lies in the fact that European unification, despite the high rebel of support it receives, does not rely on postnational citizens with a united self-consciousness or Euro-citizenship (Bryant 1991; Hodgson 1993), but on a plurality of nationals with "rival and contrasting 'European identities"' (Shore 1993:791). The legitimation of the EC is not secured, not only because anti-European citizens do not support unification, but also because pro-Europeans do so out of concerns related to their own countries. Both anti-Europeans and pro-Europeans are nationals, not Europeans.


(n1.) Several other European countries have formally applied for membership in the EC/EU: Turkey in 1987, Austria in 1989, Cyprus and Malta in 1990, Sweden in 1991, and Firland, Switzerland, and Norway in 1992. Since then, referenda led Sweden, Finland, and Austria to join the EU and Norway to decline. Announcements of the intention or consideration to apply for membership have been made by other countries, such as Liechtenstein, the Czech and Slovak republics, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgarian, Romania, and Albania.

(n2.) From the perspective of the sociology of democracy, Habermas's approach criticizes theories that exclusively emphasize the efficacy of the economic system and the polity (e.g., Lipset 1994), asserting that a civil society, permitting popular participation and legitimation, is an important codeterminant of democratic survival (Habermas 1992a, 1994a; see also Calhoun 1993; Dahl 1992; Gerhards 1993).

(n3.) This corresponds to Haller's (1990) thesis that comparative research on the "macrocontext" of Europe should not exclude an account of the internal differentiations between Europe's countries (see also the discussion between Hamm 1991 and Haller 1991).

World War II, and proximity to other countries in the European Community show high rates of support. We attempt to evaluate in more detail the premise behind their analysis.

(n5.) If we desired to generalize to the European Community as a single entity, we could also weight each country in the sample so that it corresponds to its representation in the community. However, given our theoretical attention to national identity and concern with nation-states as meaningful units, the virtual discounting of the results for smaller countries relative to the larger countries brought about by this procedure has little justification.

(n6.) Differences in educational systems make it difficult to measure degree completed meaningfully across countries.

(n7.) For a review of the conceptual logic, details of construction, and methodological evaluation of the postmaterialist value priorities scale, see Inglehart (1990). The scale comes from answers to questions of what respondents think are the two most important goals for their country. Originally offering a choice of twelve materialist and postmaterialist goals, Inglehart later was able to reduce the choice to four goals with little loss of reliability. Those who choose maintaining order and fighting rising prices are classified as materialist, and those who choose protecting freedom of speech and giving people more say in government are classified as postmaterialist. Those who choose one from each set are classified as mixed.

To check for nonlinearity, we also treated postmaterialism as two dummy variables rather than as a single linear scale. However, adding the extra variable to allow for nonlinearity raises the proportion of variance explained by less than .0003. The single indicator thus appears to adequately depict the effects of postmaterialist values in our models.

(n8.) Because the 1989 election for the European Parliament may also have generated interest in and support for unification, the figures for that year may be somewhat inflated (Gabel & Palmer 1995).

(n9.) Perhaps the modest effects of the ideological variables result from their overlap with the sociodemographic controls for age, education, occupation, and income. Yet the bivariate correlations of European support with political orientation and postmaterialism are actually slightly smaller than the partial standardized coefficients.

(n10.) Replicating the 1992 results for the eleven countries available for all years does not change these conclusions. As a means of identifying substantially important changes, we simply compared coefficients for the model for both sets of countries. None of the coefficients for the subsample differed nontrivially from those reported in Table 2. Although the composition affects the overall level of support in Table 1 and the constant in the regression equation, it has no influence on the variable coefficients. This finding indicates that the relationships in the four new countries do not differ from those in the original eleven. Further tests for differences in effects across the original eleven countries might also be appropriate. However, the formidable problems of developing theoretical specifications of the expected differences, adding numerous statistical tests, and interpreting separate models by country as well as by year led us to limit such efforts in this article.

(n11.) In the following discussion, we refer to significant changes in the coefficients on the basis of tests for two groups of countries. One group of all countries, even those added after the 1982 survey, makes it difficult to isolate changes in the coefficients from differences due to the changing country composition of the sample. The other group of countries with data for all years allows direct tests for changes in the coefficients without concern over the countries included. The same variables emerged as having changed significantly for both groups of countries, and we can therefore attribute the changes to something more than sample composition. To test for changes over time, we include product terms of dummy variables for 1986, 1989, and 1992 by each of the other independent variables (leaving the effects of the variables in 1982 as the base from which the effects for the later yeas vary). For the full sample of nations, the additional sixty-five product terms raise the variance explained with an additive model by 2% (.160 versus .140, significant at the .001 Ievel). Examining the significance and direction of the product terms forms the basis of our discussion.

(n12.) Since the dependent variable has been standardized within each of the years, we look for changes only in the rankings of the countries over time. While the descriptive results in Table 1 show increased support for unification over time, the coefficients in Tables 3-5 show shifts in relative positions of countries within the more general trend. We can allow the mean of the dependent variable to vary across yeas by standardizing within the total sample rather than within years. Except to increase the effects of the dummy variables for time, this form of scaling does not change significantly any of the other additive or interactive effects.

(n13.) Perhaps our measure of popular support cannot identify citizens who favor a unification of Europe in idealized terms, but not the unification as it really exists. Factor analysis, however, does not support the view that respondents make this distinction: despite a different emphasis, the item on European unification attitude loads similarly on the underlying factor to the two other items (see Appendix).


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See my related writings on comparative sociology.