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Bridging the gap between public opinion and European leadership: Engaging a dialogue on the future path of Europe.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EUENGAGE (Bridging the gap between public opinion and European leadership: Engaging a dialogue on the future path of Europe.)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2017-02-28

The process of EU integration has given rise to tensions between public opinion and political leaders. The migration, financial and security crises, as well as the Brexit vote have further exacerbated such tensions. People’s demands for effective responses are turning into hostility towards the political elites and the European project.
In light of this scenario, EUENGAGE seeks to:
• Ascertain which aspects of the European integration project are seen more critically;
• Gauge the gaps between citizens and political leaders;
• Study ways to address these gaps.
EUENGAGE proposes to address these goals through an interactive, dynamic, multilevel and replicable quasi-experimental research design, by using a plurality of both well-established and new instruments. This multi-method approach will yield a valuable amount of data, collected with different yet coordinated approaches.
"The first year of the project was mainly devoted to elaborating a common theoretical framework. The second year focused on data collection and preliminary analyses.

• Work Packages 1 and 6: surveys on public opinion, business people and political elites.
The first round of surveys was carried out in the second half of 2016 in 10 European countries (Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the UK). The surveys explored the dimensions of transnational solidarity, representation, policy preferences, and scope of governance, by focusing on economy, immigration, security, and the Brexit. Preliminary results revealed that majorities in those European countries that are most affected by the crises tend to support measures of mutual solidarity among member states; on the contrary, support is lower in the countries less affected by the crises. A similar pattern seems to emerge also among the political elites. The second wave of the mass and elite surveys will be carried out in the second half of 2017.

• Work Package 2: analyses of leaders’ speeches.
VU collected 18403 speeches from the main European institutions, plus the IMF, and the speeches of prime ministers of EU countries for the period since 2007, in the 10 countries targeted by the surveys. Concerning the explanation of leaders’ attitudes, researchers at VU found that: heads of government talk more about the economy when GDP growth declines or when unemployment rises (issue emphasis); talk more about the economy when domestic GDP growth and unemployment rate underperform relatively to the EU average (issue emphasis with benchmarking); and shift blame towards other countries when GDP growth declines (blame-shifting). The EUSpeech dataset is available on Harvard Dataverse.

• Work Package 3: Content analysis of party manifestos.
UMA collected and coded 198 of the relevant parties’ manifestos issued before the European Parliamentary elections of 2014 (Euromanifestos). Preliminary results reveal that although parties did not devote more attention to European issues as a response to the crises, their tone towards the EU has become substantially more negative, especially among far-right parties.
The integrated 2014 Euromanifesto dataset was archived within the GESIS Data Archive.

• Work Package 4: Expert surveys on political parties.
VU released the 2014 version of the expert survey on political parties, available at www.chesdata.eu. Overall, the research suggests that the perforation of national states by immigration, integration, and trade may signify a critical juncture in the political development of Europe no less consequential for political parties and party systems than the previous junctures that Lipset and Rokkan detected in their classic article. VU researchers presented evidence suggesting that 1) party systems are determined by episodic breaks from the past; 2) political parties are programmatically inflexible; and, 3) as a consequence, party system change comes in the form of rising new parties.

• Work Package 5: quantitative analysis of social media.
LSE created two datasets on tweets. The first dataset is the engagement on Twitter by the most important political figures across the EU; the second dataset focuses on the Twitter conversations regarding Brexit.
Analyses were conducted to show which frequent hashtags strongly predict the side in the Brexit campaign of twitter users. For instance, money and foreign exchange hashtags (e.g. #pound, #currency, #fx) terms are mostly Remain hashtags, while hashtags on Muslims (e.g. #muslims) are Leave hashtags. Even for the same issue, hashtags used by each side are different. In immigration issues, examples of Leave hashtags are #bordercontrol and #migrantcrisis and those of Remain side are #iamaneumigrant and #migrantswelcome.

• Work Package 7: mass media content analysis.
MRC collected for text analysis a corpus of articles from 30 media outlets i"
The EUENGAGE project has gained particular momentum in the current historical context, featuring unprecedented challenges in migration, economy, and security, and watershed events such as Brexit. This makes the EUENGAGE project extremely relevant for a better understanding of the present (and the future prospects) of the EU in times of crisis. EUENGAGE is currently working to promote the translation of the rich amount of collected data into substantial policy inputs to address the current challenges, to improve the legitimacy and accountability of the EU institutions and to strengthen popular trust.
The framework of the project