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Sharing Is Caring? Exploring the Relationship Between Preferences for Online Participation and Support for Solidarity Between EU Member States

Brändle, Verena K., Eisele, Olga
TheAmerican behavioral scientist 2019 v.63 no.4 pp. 523-537
European Union, people, politics, regression analysis, surveys
The article explores the influence of online participation on individual-level support for burden-sharing measures among EU member states. The analysis is set against the backdrop of the discussion about solidarity in times of EU crises and follows an innovative approach by operationalizing social inclusion in the European Union via online participation. It is argued that the specific nature of the European Union favors the use of online channels for political information and participation, but that despite its inclusive potential, online participation does not necessarily mean public support for the European Union. Instead, we hypothesize that people who make more use of online participation channels—thus are supposedly better equipped to participate in EU politics—are more critical in their evaluation of burden-sharing measures. Based on a large-scale survey among EU citizens in late 2016, we conduct a regression analysis taking into account the influence of EU support and general considerations on solidarity. Results lend support to our hypothesis that people who participate in political affairs online do not express greater support for EU burden-sharing measures but are more critical. Results are interpreted as an expression of the constraining dissensus regarding EU politics: Negative effects are read as criticism of how solidarity in the European Union is implemented, not as opposition to solidarity in the European Union as such.