Author(s): Anne-Marie Jeannet
Keywords: Public Opinion,European Union,EU attitudes,immigration
Although the European Union allows citizens from member countries to migrate freely within its confines to facilitate integration, it may be alienating public support for Europe. This paper investigates this by extending group threat theory to explain how internal migration influences mass public support using annual data from 1998 to 2014 across 15 Western European countries. We find that increases in the presence of foreigners from new member countries in Central and Eastern Europe have raised collective concerns about EU membership and there is some evidence that it may have eroded trust in European institutions as well. The results also show that this effect is exacerbated during an economic downturn. Our findings imply that collective opinion has responded ‘rationally’ to contextual changes in Europe’s internal migration patterns. The study concludes by discussing how group threat theory is relevant for understanding collective sentiment about the European Union.