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H2020

EUENGAGE Report Summary

Project ID: 649281
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EUENGAGE (Bridging the gap between public opinion and European leadership: Engaging a dialogue on the future path of Europe.)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-02-29

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The context

The process of EU integration has given rise to tensions between public opinion and political leadership. The creation of an articulated system of supranational governance proposed by European elites, and some EU driven policies – fiscal austerity, financial help to indebted countries, ECB quantitative easing, regulations on immigration - have been critically questioned by significant portions of popular mobilisation. Moreover, there is an increasing dissatisfaction for the mechanisms of representativeness and accountability of the European institutions, and defenders of national identity and autonomy have challenged the existence of the European Union itself, or at least in its present configuration. The sudden explosion of a major and multifaceted economic crisis within the European Union has further exacerbated such tensions. Public support and trust in European institutions have seriously declined over the last years and the rise of Eurosceptic feelings and movements is visible in many countries.

The goals and the research design

In light of this scenario, the EUENGAGE project aims to:
- Provide a systematic and in-depth picture of the state of opinion on the EU shared by the general public, active users of social media, political elites and leaders (in government, parties and parliaments), and business actors;
- Inquire into the current tensions between the supranational EU governance and popular mobilisation at the national level, and
- Identify a range of possible institutional and policy solutions to address these tensions;
To address these goals, EUENGAGE will set up an interactive, dynamic, multilevel and replicable quasi-experimental research design, by using a variety of instruments and techniques, including: the content analysis of party manifestos, leaders’ speeches, social, and online media; expert surveys of party positions; mass and elites panel surveys; and an on-line deliberative forum. The deliberative forum will provide a unique opportunity to 450 citizens from 10 EU member states to interact for 14 days, both among themselves and with politicians. The experiment will show how innovative interactions between citizens and politicians can increase awareness of citizens of the common problems of the Union, and the ability of the European leadership to develop acceptable policy solutions.

The consortium

The EUENGAGE consortium, led by the University of Siena (UNISI, Italy), involves a network of six European universities and a survey company. The project partners are: Stitching VU/VUmc (the Netherlands), Universitaet Mannheim – UMA (Germany), London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom), Fundatia MRC-Median Research Centre (Romania), TNS Opinion (Belgium) and Unitelma Sapienza University (Italy).

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"During the first 12 months of the EUENGAGE project, a substantial effort has been devoted to the preparatory phases of the project’s main research activities.

-Mass and elites surveys – wave I (WP1, WP6, and WP9)

The research team at UNISI has been involved in the questionnaire design for the first wave of the public opinion and elite surveys. These two questionnaires overlap, in order to enable a systematic comparison of the attitudes of leaders and public opinion.
The surveys focus on four policy areas: economy, immigration, and international security, where the most serious challenges for the current state of European integration have arisen. With regard to these policy areas the questionnaires explore the dimensions of transnational solidarity, representation, policy preferences, and scope of governance. A special attention is devoted also to the "Brexit" issue. The questionnaire designed for public opinion includes an experimental section, where treatment and control conditions will be randomly assigned to the respondents, assessing the factors that affect the support for transnational solidarity in the EU.
The questionnaires have been finalized in English and they are then translated in all the languages of the countries covered by the survey (the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland and Portugal). They are being scripted by TNS (public opinion survey) and UNISI (elites survey), for participation in the online surveys to take place April - May 2016.

-Analysis of leaders’ speeches (WP2)

The research team at VU/VUmc has collected metadata and scraped links to 18,612 speeches across the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland and Portugal, and the EU Institutions, since 2007; speeches have been then cleaned and transformed into a word frequency matrix, before proceeding with the preferences and sentiments conveyed by European politicians in their speeches.

-Estimates of party positioning using Euromanifestos (WP3)

During the first 12 months of the project, the research team at UMA has collected all the relevant parties’ manifestos issued before the European Parliamentary elections of 2014, and has stored them in an archive. The research team has also reviewed and revised the Euromanifestos’ coding platform and built a new version of the Euromanifesto Codebook. The manual content analysis of these manifestos is progressing according to the schedule, while a preliminary version of the coded Euromanifestos has already been released.

-Estimates of party positioning using expert surveys (WP4)

The dataset on the expert surveys, conducted in 2014 by the research team at VU/VUmc, has been released in July 2015 and it is available on www.chesdata.eu.
The survey includes all EU member states plus parties in Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey. Separate surveys were conducted in the Balkan candidate countries. The survey includes questions on parties’ general position on European integration, several EU policies, general left/right, economic left/right, and social left/right, as well as questions on non-EU policy issues, such as immigration, redistribution, decentralization, and environmental policy.

-Analysis of the political discourse about Europe on Twitter (WP5 and WP9)

In the first year of the project, the research team based at the LSE, with the support of TNS Opinion, prepared and delivered a dataset of all tweets from, to, and mentioning the candidates for the European Parliament elections of 2014. This involved a total of 3.8 million tweets from the 2,750 out of 15,353 MEP candidates (17.9%) that were identified as having a presence on Twitter. This dataset will form the basis for the first social media analysis of engagement with European political issues. A first study from this data, entitled “Social Media and Political Communications in the 2014 Elections to the European Parliament,” has been submitted to a special issue of the journal, European Union Politics.

-Online Media Analysis (WP7)

After the preliminary work of a literature review on existing studies of EU-related news coverage, the research team at MRC has been involved in the task of data collection, the final objective of which is to set up a corpus of articles from 30 media outlets in 10 European countries (the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Great Britain) for text analysis.

-Dissemination (WP10)

During the first year of the project, a website was created. It includes the project’s concept and objectives, information about the project’s public events and activities, and relevant papers and publications."

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

This stage of the project has been characterised by intense collaboration among all the consortium’s partners to ensure the greatest level of consistency and coordination across the different WPs. Indeed, the EUENGAGE project aims to promote public knowledge and understanding of the tensions currently underlying the European process of supranational integration, by using a plurality of research instruments and innovative methodologies.
Based on this empirical information, EUENGAGE ultimately intends to devote specific attention to the discussion of remedies to address the dilemmas that the process of supranational integration poses to the mechanisms of representation and accountability in the EU; it will thus contribute to improving the legitimacy of the EU institutions and strengthening popular trust.
In light of these goals, the expected impact of EUENGAGE is focused primarily on policy and practice, scientific knowledge and understanding, and public discourse.

The recent events in the EU, related to the aspects of immigration, the economy and security crises, further strengthen the potentialities of the EUENGAGE project and the expectations of its impact. Moreover, such events support the theoretical choice to focus on the areas of immigration, the economy, and security crises to provide a picture of the state of opinion on the EU. Within this framework, the EUENGAGE project will strengthen its efforts to promote the translation of its scientific results into more substantial policy inputs.

In particular, in order to achieve the expected impacts, EUENGAGE will implement a plan for the dissemination and exploitation of results, which is targeted at three key audiences: the scientific community, policy makers and practitioners, and the broader public. EUENGAGE will employ different activities for dissemination to each of these audiences, such as: presentations of the results to international workshops and conferences, and to public events with policy makers, journalists, practitioners, and interest groups; publication of refereed working papers and edited volumes; preparation of synthetic reports for the mass media. Furthermore, in the final year of the project, an online dialogue with the general public regarding the project results will be managed through the most widely used social media platforms.

Related information

Record Number: 190018 / Last updated on: 2016-11-03
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