Main content area

Building a European Legitimacy Index

Blanco-González, Alicia, Prado-Román, Camilo, Díez-Martín, Francisco
European Union, police, politics, surveys
This article outlines an approach to building a country-level legitimacy index designed specifically for European Union member states. The index allows intercountry as well as longitudinal comparisons. Changes over time reflect varying levels of confidence in the political system and may serve as leading indicators for differences in the economic, social, and political stability of member states. Source data for the index are derived from the European Social Survey, taken between 2002 and 2012 in 35 countries. The index is built around three dimensions (legality, justification, and consent). Results from the index vary among member states but, overall, show a tendency toward diminishing legitimacy. Citizens trust their police forces and laws, but are dissatisfied with institutions and the economy. Moreover, they feel increasing distance from their leaders, their representative bodies, and the effectiveness of political institutions. These trends highlight the need for public–private efforts to increase the legitimacy of European Union member states.