Blog Post #2: Examining Referendums on EU Membership, 1990-present

Hi everyone! In my last blog post, I detailed the steps I will take in this research project to determine what socioeconomic and political factors are most influential in shaping domestic support for EU membership across Europe. For the past week, I’ve taken a look back in time and have examined the 20 referendums on EU membership that have occurred throughout European countries since the fall of the Soviet Union. This step, while tedious, was incredibly helpful in informing my principal goal of evaluating which structural factors play a role in predicting support for EU membership in countries that have not yet acceded to the union, specifically ones of the former Yugoslavia.

Originally, I intended to compile separate data sets for each of the 20 referendums separately. In each data set, I wanted to examine an individual referendum’s results and socioeconomic conditions along sub-national jurisdiction levels, which I believed would be more helpful in establishing trends than if I were to merely look at aggregate, nationwide results.

Unfortunately, this data was not accessible. Upon reaching out to several different statistics databases from countries across the continent, I was told time and time again by some very lovely bureaucrats (special shout out to Austria and Finland, whose statistics officials were remarkably kind in response to my pleading emails!) that European countries rarely record things along sub-national levels because countries and provinces are far less integral to political functioning than states are in the US. So, I pushed forward using only national level data.  or example, Austria has nine states; while historical data on Austria’s 1994 EU referendum results and its relevant political/economic/social variables at the time are readily available online, details for Vienna, Tyrol, and Burgenland are not, which slightly complicated my plan.

So I pushed forward with the decision to examine national-level results, and began compiling data on EU membership referendum results and economic/political/social factors in their respective countries for each of my 20 cases. This was coupled with an intensive examination of several academic articles that all looked at what factors are most important in shaping support for EU membership; the most noteworthy one came from the London School of Economics, which provided compelling empirical evidence for the existence of a ‘honeymoon phase’ for new EU member states and suggested that richer countries with fewer direct, tangible benefits from EU membership are likelier to embrace Euroskeptic rhetoric in their domestic politics.

I also spent time this week developing the “Methods” section of my project’s final product, which I predict will be a 30-40 page paper. Moving forward, I intend on actually running my data set on past EU referendums through Stata to examine statistical relationships between my various explanatory variables and support for membership, and my next blog post will revolve around these findings. Thank you for reading!