Doreen Allerkamp
The Quest to Capture Euroscepticism. A Framework for Conceptualization

14th Biennial Conference of European Union Studies Association, Boston, 05. bis 07. März 2015

The notion of Euroscepticism stems from the 1980s, and from the British context; it spread to other EU states in the course of the Maastricht ratification debates in the early 1990s and it has become key in capturing the fall-out from the EU’s protracted crises. The spread of Euroscepticism has complicated its conceptualization, as context-sensitivity has begun to clash with comparability. Thus, as the literature on Euroscepticism has multiplied and diversified, so have conceptualizations of it. Much of the literature works with simple, dichotomous notions, many of which are cross-cutting or overlapping, and a single carrier of Euroscepticism (most often public attitudes or parties). Yet increasingly, scholars recognize the multi-faceted nature of Euroscepticism as well as carriers of Euroscepticism beyond pub-lic opinion and political parties, such as elites more broadly, extra-parliamentary civil society actors of many kinds and the media. This further complicates attempts at conceptualization. Euroscepticism may have become an “essentially contested concept”, not because it has se-veral competing meanings, but because most users accept one broad meaning while regular-ly contesting its empirical application (Mair 2008: 195). In other words, it appears quite clear what Euroscepticism is in the abstract, but there is, and probably will remain, considerable debate about what qualifies as Euroscepticism empirically. Departing from an assessment of the conceptual state of the art on Euroscepticism, this paper argues that although many definitions and approaches have been put forward, consensus around the concept of Euroscepticism remains elusive. To enable the cross‐fertilization and even convergence of various Euroscepticism‐related research projects and approaches that promise to generate the most value added, however, some common framework is arguably required. Rather than putting forward yet another “definite” typology of Euroscepticism(s), this paper suggests embedding the notion in a broader framework of possible attitudes to ‘Europe’ (and more specifically, the EU) and presents the outlines and essential features of such a framework. The crucial contribution of this framework is that it enables researchers to place various carriers of Euroscepticism (public opinion, media outlets, parties, elites ...) into the same three‐ (or even four‐)dimensional, flexible attitude space and hence compare their positions and model the relationships between them as well as shifts over time. In this way, this paper enables the indispensable first step in any (inevitably comparative) analysis of “Euroscepticism”: its conceptualization – which is crucial not just to EU studies but arguably to the future of the EU itself.