Blaming Europe? Responsibility Without Accountability in the European Union

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2014-04-15
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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A key component of democratic accountability is that citizens understand 'who is to blame'. Nonetheless, little is known about how citizens attribute responsibility in the European Union or how those perceptions of responsibility matter. This book presents the first comprehensive account of how citizens assign blame to the EU, how politicians and the media attempt to shift blame and finally, how it matters for electoral democracy. Based on rich and unique data sources, Blaming Europe? sheds light on all three aspects of responsibility in the EU. First, it shows that while institutional differences between countries shape citizen judgements of EU responsibility, those judgements are also highly determined by pre-existing attitudes towards the EU. Second, it demonstrates that neither politicians nor the media assign much blame to the EU. Third, it establishes that regardless of whether voters are capable of accurately assigning responsibility, they are not able to hold their EU representatives to account via the ballot box in European elections due to the lack of an identifiable 'European government' to reward or punish. As a consequence, when citizens hold the EU responsible for poor performance, but are unable to sanction an EU incumbent, they lose trust in the EU as a whole instead. In conclusion, it argues that this 'accountability deficit' has significant implications for the future of the European Union.

Author Biography

Sara B. Hobolt, Sutherland Chair in European Institutions, London School of Economics and Political Science,James Tilley, University Lecturer and Fellow, Department of Politics and International Relations and Jesus College, University of Oxford

Sara Hobolt is Sutherland Chair in European Institutions at the European Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Previously, she has held posts at the University of Oxford and the University of Michigan. She has published extensively on European Union politics, public opinion, and elections. Her book Europe in Question: Referendums on European Integration (Oxford University Press, 2009) was awarded the Best Book prize by the European Union Studies Association in 2010.

James Tilley is a university lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. He was previously a post-doctoral fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford and Trinity College Dublin. His research is mainly in the fields of public opinion and electoral behaviour, and he has published widely on topics including European Parliament elections, support for the EU, the attribution of responsibility, and the social bases of voting behaviour.

Table of Contents

Part One: Blaming the European Union?
1. Blaming Europe?
2. Who is responsible?
Part two: Citizens and Blame
3. When do citizens get it right?
4. When do citizens get it wrong?
Part Three: The Media, Politicians, and Blame
5. Who do the media blame?
6. Who do the media inform?
7. Who do politicians blame?
Part Four: The Consequences of Blame
8. Does responsibility matter?
9. Conclusion: Responsibility without accountability

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