Politics constrained
: the political consequences of the financial crisis and EU economic intervention in Western Europe

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The unprecedented step taken by the European Union (EU) to economically intervene in a selection of the polity’s member states at the height of the Eurozone crisis represents a critical juncture in the trajectory of EU integration. Given the extremity of the EU’s actions and the catalytic nature of intervention in creating significant and notable variation in the depth of EU integration between member states, studying the effects of intervention on mass politics merits attention. This thesis addresses the impact of the economic intervention from the EU on domestic politics, concretely on political parties and voters, via the collection of three independent yet centrally interrelated empirical essays.
The first essay entails a large-N quantitative analysis of political party politicisation in Europe during the years of the financial crisis and assesses the EU’s decision to intervene within the economies of a number of member states. Relying on quantified data on party’s positions from coded manifesto data as well as macroeconomic indicators, it explores how exposure to EU intervention conditioned parties’ willingness to politicise EU integration within national elections. It is shown that, on average, EU intervention actually suppresses partisan politicisation of the EU with, however, notable variation between parties from different ideological families.
The second essay tests the impact of EU intervention on electoral participation. Employing a rational-choice model to understand individual-level turnout, it assesses the role of intervention on individuals’ propensity to participate in domestic elections when their political system finds itself constrained by demands imposed by the supranational institutions. Using aggregate-level turnout figures and cross-sectional time-series data from eight rounds of the European Social Survey, I show that intervention suppresses turnout and that this effect is greater for those with both a higher level of education and those who identify on the ideological left.
Finally, the third essay looks at the long-term effects of the crisis in Germany. The crisis gave birth to Germany’s populist radical-right wing and eurosceptic party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Analysing both coded party manifestos from the Manifesto Project as well as electoral survey data from the European Social Survey, I demonstrate that, against spatial incentives based on eurosceptic competition, the mainstream political parties in Germany have not become more eurosceptic as a result of the rise of the AfD. In contrast, both the mainstream parties as well as their voters have become markedly more europhile.
Overall this project contributes to our understanding of the events of the Eurozone crisis. Its findings do provide mixed evidence on the state of representative democracy in Western Europe. On the one hand, they paint a negative picture showing that EU intervention depresses the spectrum of choice over EU integration afforded to citizens, and also reduces the propensity of individuals to vote. On the other hand, the rise of a eurosceptic threat engendered by EU intervention in a non-intervened-in state, leads to increased choice and clarity, providing the EU with more legitimacy.
Date of Award1 May 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorChristel Koop (Supervisor) & Ruben Ruiz-Rufino (Supervisor)

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