‘Illiberal Democrats’/ProConEU

Research question/goal: 

The project comprises two subprojects with different, but linked research foci. The project ‘Illiberal Democrats’ investigated the antecedents, dimensions, and consequences of ‘illiberal democratic’ attitudes for the future of European democracies and European integration. In addition, the project ‘ProConEU’ studied whether a structural cleavage underlies the conflicts between the European Union (EU) and some of its member states. To study these questions, European citizens were surveyed during the 2019 European Parliament Elections, and social media and manifesto data were collected and analysed employing state-of-the-art methodology.

The findings demonstrated that populist attitudes are not as important as expected in being linked to a lack of support for liberal-democratic norms but that incumbency status appears to be of major importance in this context. Support for liberal–democratic norms, in turn, tends to be linked to support for European integration, especially in contexts in which institutions of liberal democracy are contested. Moreover, the findings indicate that the divide between supporters and opponents of European integration is not rooted in a new sociopolitical cleavage. Instead, it appears to be partisan in nature, as suggested by the increased turnout in the 2019 election. Parties regularly cover European issues in EP election campaigns, and they emphasise national sovereignty in times of crisis and Europe-wide challenges. European issues have become important in affecting vote choice in EP elections, with EU polity issues being increasingly accompanied by European policy issues, such as fighting climate change in Europe. Our results on social media communication demonstrated that before the 2019 election, national differences were of primary importance in shaping the coverage of EU topics. However, as the findings from this election demonstrate, mainstream parties that support European integration have begun to address these topics more consistently on social media such as Twitter and to take a supportive stance.

Fact sheet

2018 to 2023
Data Sources: 
nationally representative cross-sectional surveys, party manifesto content analyses, and social media communication
Geographic Space: