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ECPR Press > Studies > Perceptions of Europe

Perceptions of Europe Perceptions of Europe
A Comparative Sociology of European Attitudes
Daniel  Gaxie (Editor)
Nicolas  Hubé (Editor)
Jay  Rowell (Editor)
£24.00 / €32.80
RRP: £30.00 / €41.00
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Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781907301599
Page Extent: 290 pp

Table of Contents:  View (pdf)
Sample Pages:  View (pdf)


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About the Book

This book presents the main findings of a comparative qualitative survey conducted in France, Germany, Italy, and Poland. Ordinary citizens from very different social backgrounds and professions were asked a range of open-ended questions, allowing them to express themselves freely. There have been few qualitative surveys on ordinary citizens' views of European integration, and none on this scale. The resulting picture is very different from the self-evident assumptions of many current studies on European opinions.

Contributions to the volume stress the great diversity, ambiguity, and complexity of European attitudes. They emphasise the causal impact of formal education, political interest and involvement, individual everyday exposures to ‘European’ realities, and the role of collective national experiences of European integration and national history.

~ The first qualitative survey among ordinary people from all social strata across Europe that explores perceptions and judgments on ‘Europe’ and the EU.

~ Explains the underlying logic of why Europe and European integration are such a far reality to most citizens.

~ Explores how most citizens are poorly – but unequally – informed about and interested in European subjects;

~ Investigates how citizens are able to express perceptions of ‘Europe’ by using a series of analogies and comparisons often linked to their daily experiences.

~ Identifies the complex range of issues that influence our perceptions, and the irresolute, fragmentary, mixed, and sometimes contradictory nature of these opinions.

Extract from a review by Anne-Dörte Balks in the journal European Political Science, published 22 February 2013

'Perceptions of Europe, edited by Daniel Gaxie, Nicolas Hubé and Jay Rowell, takes a comparative politics perspective to the question ‘What do citizens think and how do they think about Europe?’ (p. 10). It presents the results of the Concorde research project that took place between January 2006 and June 2009. Similar to Europe, Nations and Modernity, it is assumed that attitudes (rather than modernities) towards Europe are multiple and differentiated and depend on personal experiences with Europe. Because of that, statistical analysis must fall short in explaining all facets of public opinion on Europe as it discounts the subjective level of citizens’ opinions. There follows a critical discussion of the Eurobarometer surveys, which is especially interesting because of Eurobarometer’s quasimonopolistic position in European opinion and identity surveys. The Eurobarometer is presented as a marketing instrument of the European Commission and accused of designing questions in order to have the answers show steady support for the EU. On top of that, it is claimed that the answers to survey questions only draw a distorted picture of the actual opinion and knowledge of citizens on an issue, as interviewees rarely admit a lack of knowledge. Possibly the greatest value added by this book lies, therefore, in its thorough discussion of the implications of statistical research on multi-layered concepts such as opinions and identity.

Due to the shortcomings of statistical research, the ‘Perceptions of Europe’ project instead resorted to the use of in-depth interviews using open questions on the overall perception and judgement of Europe. The interviews were held with individuals and focus groups. The latter resemble the sensitized groups of The Evolution of European Identities and were used to extract spontaneous answers and opinions given in free discussions. Categories of perceptions on Europe were not assumed beforehand, but were filtered from the interviewees’ answers. However, even though research was conducted in five European countries (France, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and Italy), collective interviews were only held in France and in French. Altogether, the book displays an unfortunate Francocentric perspective, especially given the otherwise comparative nature of the research question and hypothesis. The assumed influencing factor of national differences on public opinion is indeed proven, but the presentation of results somewhat diminish the comparative research to account for such national peculiarities. Semi-structured interviews asked questions about the referendum in France and federalism in Germany, but examples are mostly given from France. However, this is only a small drawback in an otherwise excellent study and an excellent book. Especially the methodical anne-do¨ rte balks european political science: 12 2013 257 chapter satisfies every requirement of sound qualitative and grounded theorybased research. Hypotheses were continuously adjusted to experiences from the interviews and drawbacks, and difficulties during the research phase are noted and critically reflected upon.

The contributions to the book confirm the hypothesis of multiple perspectives on European integration hinging on a variety of factors. Social and economic status, cultural education level, occupation, religion, personal history and family situation, among others, account for a vast variety of perspectives spanning a three-dimensional space: opinions in favour or against European integration, personal experiences of Europe and practical familiarity with, and knowledge of, EU issues. The findings sum up to the conclusion of the book: ‘Attitudes towards Europe are the product of a convergence between individual dispositions and national contexts’ (p. 71).

Qualitative studies on European identity and public opinion meet many obstacles, especially concerning research design and explanatory power. Conducting, transcribing, analysing and interpreting in-depth interviews is a tenuous task at best, but also often meets with the criticism that without standardisation and a critical mass of answers, representativeness of results cannot be ensured. Especially the last two research projects and books under consideration here have proven that meaningful qualitative research on these issues is possible and valuable. By bringing in the subjective level of the interviewees, it is possible to find explanations for variations in identity and opinion, and so this research complements quantitative studies that merely identify. Students of qualitative research methods will also be grateful for the detailed step-by-step description of the conduct of interviews and analysis. In that sense, the two books can easily serve as examples of good practice and as manuals of how to do research.'


  Pub Date:

February 2013


Sébastian  Michon (Contributor)
Philippe  Aldrin (Contributor)
Giuliano  Bobba (Contributor)
Marie-Hélène  Bruère (Contributor)
Dorota  Dakowska (Contributor)
Marine  De Lassalle (Contributor)
Katarzyna  Jaszczyk (Contributor)
Patrick  Lehingue (Contributor)
Christèle  Marchand (Contributor)
Jean-Matthieu  Méon (Contributor)
Muriel  Rambour (Contributor)
Pierre-Edouard  Weill (Contributor)


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