Issue Salience and the Domestic Legitimacy Demands of European Integration. The Cases of Britain and Germany

Kai Oppermann, Henrike Viehrig


The salience of European issues to the general public is a major determinant of the domestic legitimacy demands that governments face when they devise their European policies. The higher the salience of these issues, the more restrictive will be the legitimacy demands that governments have to meet on the domestic level. Whereas the domestic legitimacy of European policy can rest on a permissive consensus among the public in cases of low issue salience, it requires the electorate’s explicit endorsement in cases of high issue salience. Polling data from Britain and Germany show that the salience of European issues is clearly higher in Britain than in Germany. We thus conclude that British governments face tougher domestic legitimacy demands when formulating their European policies than German governments. This may contribute to accounting for both countries’ different approaches to the integration process: Germany as a role model of a pro-integrationist member state and, in contrast, Britain as the eternal "awkward partner".


public opinion; legitimacy; European elections; integration theory; referendum; EMU; Euro; Germany; U.K.

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