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Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union$
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Hermann Schmitt and Jacques Thomassen

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198296614

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198296614.001.0001

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The Cognitive Basis of Voting

The Cognitive Basis of Voting

(p.129) 7 The Cognitive Basis of Voting
Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union

Wouter van der Brug

Cees van der Eijk

Oxford University Press

This chapter is the second of six on the question of political representation in the EU, and the second of four that put the five requirements of the Responsible Party Model (outlined in Ch. 6) to an empirical test. The question investigated here is whether voters adequately perceive the substantive political differences between the parties. Specifically, the chapter sets out to assess to what extent European electorates met this requirement at the time of the 1994 elections for the European Parliament, using data from the European Election Study 1994 and the European Candidates Study 1994. Three types of such policy differences are distinguished: differences between party positions on three specific dimensions of EU policy (the position issues of the common European currency, border control, and unemployment); differences in the priorities parties wish to give to solving various problems (valence issues); and ideological differences in terms of left–right. The analyses showed that in 1994 voters in most European countries were not well aware either of the positions that political parties take on the three EU policy dimensions, nor did they have an adequate perception of the parties’ competence to handle political problems; however, they did perceive parties accurately in terms of left–right ideology.

Keywords:   border control, common European currency, European Candidates Study 1994, European Election Study 1994, European Parliament, EU, left–right ideology, political differences, political parties, political representation, position issues, Responsible Party Model, unemployment, valence issues, voters’ perceptions

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