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Public opinion and policy output in the European Union: A lost relationship


  • Dimiter Toshkov

    (Leiden University, the Netherlands,


The European Union (EU) is assumed to suffer from a democratic deficit. It is often posited that in the EU there is only a weak and indirect connection between public preferences and policy change. This article investigates empirically whether any relationship exists between public support for European integration and EU policy output (1973—2008). Using a new indicator of policy output — the volume of important legislation produced in a semester — I discover a surprising relationship between public support and legislative production. Employing vector autoregression (VAR), I demonstrate that public EU support Granger-causes legislative output but not vice versa, and that the relationship is strong up to the middle of the 1990s but non-existent afterwards. The effect is robust to the inclusion of indicators of the state of the economy and government preferences. In addition, I discover that the average level of EU support in the Council of Ministers follows unemployment levels with a four-year delay.

Suggested Citation

  • Dimiter Toshkov, 2011. "Public opinion and policy output in the European Union: A lost relationship," European Union Politics, , vol. 12(2), pages 169-191, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:eeupol:v:12:y:2011:i:2:p:169-191
    DOI: 10.1177/1465116510395043

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Chortareas, Georgios & Logothetis, Vassilis & Papandreou, Andreas, 2018. "Public Opinion, Elections, and Environmental Fiscal Policy," Cardiff Economics Working Papers E2018/9, Cardiff University, Cardiff Business School, Economics Section.
    2. Sabine Saurugger & Fabien Terpan, 2016. "Do crises lead to policy change? The multiple streams framework and the European Union’s economic governance instruments," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 49(1), pages 35-53, March.
    3. Christopher Wratil, 2015. "Democratic Responsiveness in the European Union: the Case of the Council," LEQS – LSE 'Europe in Question' Discussion Paper Series 94, European Institute, LSE.
    4. de Wilde, Pieter & Rauh, Christian, 2019. "Going full circle: the need for procedural perspectives on EU responsiveness," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 1737-1748.
    5. Guri Rosén, 2019. "Proving Their Worth? The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Members of the European Parliament," Politics and Governance, Cogitatio Press, vol. 7(3), pages 266-278.

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