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Are Europeans ready for a more democratic European Union?New evidence on preference heterogeneity, polarization, and crosscuttingness

Hale, Thomas and Koenig-Archibugi, Mathias ORCID: 0000-0003-4637-9477 (2016) Are Europeans ready for a more democratic European Union?New evidence on preference heterogeneity, polarization, and crosscuttingness. European Journal of Political Research, 55 (2). pp. 225-245. ISSN 0304-4130

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1475-6765.12136


Some scholars and policy-makers argue in favour of increasing democratic contestation for leadership and policy at the European level, for instance by having European-wide parties campaign for competing candidates for president of the European Commission ahead of European Parliament elections. But would such changes put the survival of the EU at risk? According to the consociational interpretation of the EU, the near absence of competitive and majoritarian elements has been a necessary condition for the stability of the EU political system given its highly diverse population. This paper contributes to the debate in two ways. First, it develops a more precise understanding of “problematic” diversity by examining how three variables – the heterogeneity, polarization and crosscuttingness of citizen preferences over public polices – affect the risk of democratic contestation generating persistent and systematically dissatisfied minorities. Second, it uses opinion surveys to determine whether the degree of diversity of the European population is problematically high compared to that of established democratic states. We find that the population of the EU is slightly more heterogeneous and polarized than the population of the average member state, although policy preferences in several member states are more heterogeneous and polarized than the EU as a whole. Strikingly, however, policy preference cleavages are more crosscutting in the EU than in nearly all member states, reducing the risk of permanent minorities. Moreover, policy preferences tend to be less heterogeneous and polarized, and nearly as crosscutting, in the EU as a whole as in the United States. For observers worried about how high polarization and low crosscuttingness in policy preferences may combine to threaten democratic stability, our findings should be reassuring.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 European Consortium for Political Research
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2016 17:37
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:32

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