What determines demand for European Union referendums?

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Notwithstanding elite opposition to referendums as inconsistent with theories of representative democracy, the 27-nation European Election Study finds that 63 per cent of EU citizens want a vote on EU treaties. One explanation is that the majority want more popular participation in politics; another is that referendums are demanded by those negative about the performance of their governors at national and EU levels; a third is that demand is higher where referendums are part of the national context. Multi-level statistical analysis shows greater support for the hypotheses that citizens dissatisfied with government performance are more likely to want referendums to check their governors and that national context matters. However, dissatisfied EU citizens are a minority; most who endorse EU referendums are actually pro-EU. This lowers the risk of defeat if the EU consulted its citizens in a pan-European referendum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-633
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of European Integration
Issue number5
Early online date18 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • European Union
  • referendums
  • political integration
  • EU


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