Overcoming History Through Exit or Integration: Deep-Rooted Sources of Support for the European Union
By Kai Gehring, University of Zurich and CESifo
The origins of voter preferences about the vertical distribution of political power in federal systems are not well understood. I argue that negative historical experiences with higher-level governments can raise demands for both exit strategies and a decentralization of power, but also for upward integration. I specify conditions when delegating power upwards, for example, from the nation-state to a supranational level or international organization, can better serve the purpose of constraining nation-state actions to overcome history. Empirically, the quasi-random division of the French regions Alsace and Lorraine allows estimating differences in support for integration with a spatial regression discontinuity design. More negative exposure to nation-state actions causes persistently higher support for European integration in three referenda and less Euroscepticism in EU elections. Survey evidence supports exit and integration as two complementary alternatives. Both options can serve the purpose of moving power away from the government level associated with negative historical experiences.