American Political Science Association location:New Orleans date:30 August - 2 September 2012
Strengthening European identity is often considered as a ‘cure’ for the democratic deficit and the lack of legitimacy of the European Union (European Commission, 2001; Habermas, 2011). We distinguish two possible ways to strengthen European identity: a cognitive one (more knowledge about the EU leads to a stronger identity) and a utilitarian one (inhabitants of countries that benefit more from their EU-membership have a stronger feeling of European identity). We apply a multilevel analysis on the results of the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study to test both explanatory models. 70,502 adolescents from 21 European member states were questioned in this study. The analysis shows that knowledge about the EU only has a limited effect on European identity. The degree in which a member state contributes to the European budget doesn’t seem to have an effect on the strength of European identity. The analysis rather shows that trust in national political institutions is the most important determinant for the development of European identity and that, on the country-level, a more Eurosceptic climate makes this European identity weaker.