European integration in the view of political elites and citizens – an increasing gap?
Previous work on the relationship between the attitudes of the general public towards the European Union (EU) and those of political elites has revealed the existence of attitudinal distance between these two groups – the gap – with the latter generally showing a more pro-EU stance than their fellow citizens. This chapter focuses on how and to what extent the Eurozone crisis has affected this gap and provides an explanation to the developments covering eight EU countries. It confirms an attitudinal gap between political elites and the general public regarding further European integration, which is not only due to their disproportional social background. This gap has – on average – increased since the outbreak of the financial and economic crisis, mainly because citizens withdrew their support for further integration to a greater extent than the political elites did. The degree of the gap is further influenced by the economic performance of the country, the degree of elite polarisation and the emotional attachment to Europe. The, surprisingly, negative impact of positive economic performance on the support for further integration rises but appears only among elites and thus contributes to closing the gap.