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Roger Scully, "Voters, Parties, and Europe," Party Politics, 7 (July 2001), 513-523.

First Paragraph:
Political parties and voters have not traditionally been central to analysis of the European Union (EU). With integration widely viewed as an elite-led and technocratic process, greater attention has understandably focused elsewhere. Similarly, with rare exceptions, `Europe' has been marginal to research on parties, public opinion and elections. But this situation has grown increasingly unsustainable as the domestic and European levels of politics have become ever more closely intertwined. Denmark's referendum in 2000 on membership of the single European currency was but one demonstration of how the integration process can be influenced by the public and how Europe is increasingly a matter of public debate and party discord in many member states of the Union. There is thus an urgent need to understand more about the relationship between voters, parties and Europe. The volumes reviewed here, which are based on a series of highly sophisticated, multinational research projects, are among the major recent contributions to our understanding. This brief review considers what they tell us and some of the questions they leave us with.

Figures and Tables:
[Editor's note: These four books formed the basis of this review essay.]

  1. Blondel, Jean, Richard Sinnott and Palle Svensson, People and Parliament in the European Union: Participation, Democracy and Legitimacy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998).
  2. Katz, Richard S., and Bernhard Wessels (eds) The European Parliament, the National Parliaments, and European Integration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
  3. Schmitt, Hermann, and Jacques Thomassen (eds) Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
  4. van der Eijk, Cees, and Mark N. Franklin (eds) Choosing Europe? The European Electorate and National Politics in the Face of Union (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1996).

Last Paragraph:
I conclude by identifying but three questions, suggested by reading these volumes, that concern, respectively, how voters perceive 'Europe', how parties react to the evolution of the EU, and the manner in which the relationship between parties and voters is potentially changed by Europe:

  1. It is incredible that, some 50 years after its establishment, study of public opinion on the EU remains focused almost exclusively on undifferentiated notions of the 'EU' or 'integration'. We should surely aim to differentiate more clearly. None of the books reviewed here, for instance, develops even a rudimentary model of public perceptions of the EP: further development along such lines is essential to make more sense of public perceptions.
  2. Another area for further study is surely parties' organizational reactions to deepening integration: the development of significant Euro-level institutions may not have altered their campaigning behaviour, but does it change the foci of their activities at all, or hierarchical relations within a party? Institutions have long been 'incubators' and shapers of partydevelopment; as European institutions, including the EP, become more important, will parties' organization and focus alter accordingly?

What are the fuller implications of the lack of congruence between elites and masses over European integration? Declining popularity of the EU certainly makes further integrative steps more difficult, but will it also have deeper ramifications for the party systems of EU member states: perhaps by creating opportunities for political entrepreneurs to undermine existing parties and/or create new political cleavages?