Public Opinion and Policy Output in the European Union: A Lost Relationship

Dimiter Toshkov

European Union Politics (2011), vol.12, issue 2, pp.169-91

* * * This article won the 2011 SAGE prize for best article in European Union Politics * * *


The European Union (EU) is assumed to suffer from a democratic deficit. It is often posited that in the EU there is only a weak and indirect connection between public preferences and policy change. This article investigates empirically whether any relationship exists between public support for European integration and EU policy output (1973—2008). Using a new indicator of policy output — the volume of important legislation produced in a semester — I discover a surprising relationship between public support and legislative production. Employing vector autoregression (VAR), I demonstrate that public EU support Granger-causes legislative output but not vice versa, and that the relationship is strong up to the middle of the 1990s but non-existent afterwards. The effect is robust to the inclusion of indicators of the state of the economy and government preferences. In addition, I discover that the average level of EU support in the Council of Ministers follows unemployment levels with a four-year delay.


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