How European is European Identification? Comparing Continental Identification in Europe and Beyond

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  • How European is European Identification? ComparingContinental Identification in Europe and Beyond

    JOCHEN ROOSEFree University Berlin

    AbstractEuropean identification has previously been explained by the selective gains brought by theEuropean integration process, by personal transnational experiences and by the influence ofpolitical programmes aiming at increasing levels of identification. All these explanations imply thatidentification with ones continent would be specific in extent and distribution across the socialstructure in Europe compared to other continents. These assumptions are tested using InternationalSocial Survey Programme (ISSP) and a longitudinal analysis using Eurobarometer. Results showthat, first, the extent of continental identification in Europe is not higher than in other continents.Second, they reveal that there has been no increase in European identification in recent decades.And third, the socio-structural distribution of continental identification is similar on all continents.Accordingly, explaining European identification with respect to policy output of the EuropeanUnion is questioned by the findings. The results rather hint at the possibility that Europeanidentification is independent of political integration.

    Introduction

    European identification, understood as closeness felt to Europe, is, by its very nameand essence, European.1 Accordingly, to ask for the Europeanness of European identifi-cation seems to make no sense. However, if we look at this topic from a different angle weare faced with an interesting research question: is identification with ones continent inEurope, in extent and socio-structural composition, different to that within other conti-nents? The European Union (EU) with its unique regional integration process can beexpected to exert considerable influence on affective bonds to the European continent.Therefore, we would expect a European particularity of continental identification in aglobal comparison. I want to discuss whether this plausible assumption can be empiricallysubstantiated.

    The assumption that European integration influences continental identification issignificant for theory building and policy-making alike. In the context of public supportfor European integration, the emotional side of identification is hotly debated (see,for example, Bruter, 2006; Checkel and Katzenstein, 2009; Herrmann et al., 2004;Karolewski and Kaina, 2006; McLaren, 2007; Risse, 2010; Strth, 2000; Theiler 2012).As identification with the political community is an integral part of support for a politicalsystem (Easton, 1975), it has gained importance in research. However, this research has

    1 European identification is a specific concept in the huge discussion on European identity (see below). It refers only to thepersonal feeling of attachment to a unit. Other strands in the debate on European identity refer to membership in the socialunit Europe or particularities of Europe in comparison to other regions in the world (Brubaker and Cooper, 2000).

    JCMS 2013 Volume 51. Number 2. pp. 281297 DOI: 10.1111/jcms.12005

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    2012 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 MainStreet, Malden, MA 02148, USA

  • focused solely on Europeans. What we are lacking, by and large, is a comparison andanalysis of identification with ones continent which reaches beyond Europe. Only acomparison with other continents allows us to determine whether the patterns found inEurope are EU-specific, or whether we find levels and socio-demographic patterns ofidentification that are similar throughout the world.

    First, theoretical arguments on influences on European identification are summarized.These dominantly, though not undisputedly, suggest that we should expect strongercontinental identification in Europe and a specific pattern of socio-demographic influ-ences on this identification. After briefly introducing the data sources, the first stage of theanalysis describes the distribution of identification with ones continent. The second steprefers to the temporal development of European identification. Thereby, we can determinewhether the current level of identification, as indicated by the cross-sectional analysis, isthe result of a catch-up process, a recent decrease or whether it reflects a stable situation.The final step of analysis compares the patterns of influence on continental identification.Hence, we can discover whether the arguments linking European identification with EUpolicies are plausible, or whether we find the same influences in other parts of the world.

    I. Why People Identify with Europe in Theory

    Identity and identification in respect to Europe and the EU are contested concepts(for example, Kohli, 2000, p. 2). With reference to the social identity theory of Tajfel(1978, p. 63), I understand identification as that part of the individuals self conceptwhich derives from his knowledge of his membership of a social group (or groups)together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership. Accord-ingly, I deliberately refrain from discussing whether there is a European identity in asubstantial way and what it would or should be. Rather my interest refers to what peoplethink, whether they feel attached to something like Europe for whatever reasons. Asthis identification with Europe has proved to be influential for attitudes on the politicalintegration of Europe, trust in EU institutions or attitudes towards minorities (for example,Bruter, 2004, 2006; Citrin and Sides, 2004; Marks and Hooghe, 2003; Roose, 2007), it isa research object that deserves our attention.2

    To explain the extent of European identification, three main lines of argument can befound. The first approach refers to personal experiences in relation to the EU and meetingother Europeans. The second approach is based on the idea that people who gain from theEU tend to identify with Europe. Finally, there is the idea of European identification as theresult of intentional activities by elites.

    Identification by Personal Experience

    According to the first approach, personal experiences are crucial for European identifi-cation. The argument is made in two variants. Herrmann and Brewer (2004) refer to theimportance of institutions. According to their socialization model, individuals come

    2 It is disputed whether a distinction has to be made between identification with Europe and identification with the EuropeanUnion. While logically the difference is more than obvious, people in their thinking seem to be less sophisticated. Bruter(2006, p. 119) can show that people differentiate between a civic and a cultural identification. However, both conceptsare highly correlated with each other and both are highly correlated with a general identification referring broadly to Europe.

    282 Jochen Roose

    2012 The Author(s) JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

  • to identify with an institution (and the group that it represents) to the extent that theinstitution is salient in their personal lives (Herrmann and Brewer, 2004, p. 14). A secondperspective refers to personal interaction. According to this interpretation, frequent ex-periences in a transnational space lead people to hold a European identity. This is arguedfor border regions (Kuhn, 2012a; Roose, 2010, pp. 205ff.), people working within Euro-pean institutions (Wodak, 2004) or more generally for people who are mobile in the EU(Fligstein, 2008; Kuhn, 2012b; Mau et al., 2008). The latter are typically found in thehigher social strata, the more educated with broader language abilities and better profes-sional positions. Quantitative studies can show this relation between education, profes-sional position and European identification (Citrin and Sides, 2004; Dub and MagniBerton, 2009; Fligstein, 2008, pp. 138ff.). As policies of the EU facilitate mobility withinthe Union and cross-border exchange at the inner EU borders, according to this approachwe should expect higher levels of identification with ones continent in Europe only, whilesimilar influences to this extent are by and large absent in other continents.3

    Identification by Personal Gain

    The socialization model by Herrmann and Brewer, as well as other authors arguing forthe significance of interpersonal exchange for European identification, often do notqualify for the kind of experience people have with European institutions or other Euro-peans. However, Favell (2009) describes the ambivalent experiences in different contextsof migration. Not all instances of personal exchange with European foreigners are ex-perienced as pleasurable. The second approach takes this into account, arguing that peoplewho gain from the European integration process tend to feel more European. Already inneo-institutionalism we can find the close link between advantages and mutual loyalty oridentification (Risse, 2005). Fligstein (2008, p. 145; see also, for example, Immerfall andSobisch, 1997, p. 34) interprets the findings of more European identification among theupper social strata as an effect of the improved opportunities resulting from Europeanintegration: [T]he most privileged socioeconomic groups are the most European. [. . .] Allthese groups have opportunities to interact with people from other European countries.Castano (2004, p. 40, emphasis added) regards this argument as too obvious whenhe writes that few would maintain that self-identification at the collective level is theconsequence solely of perceived material benefits.

    If we accept these theoretical arguments, again we should expect a crucial influence ofEU policies on European identification. However, the resulting level of identification isnot clear. While those who benefit from EU policies

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