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Keywords:

  • democratic legitimacy;
  • European Union;
  • euroscepticism;
  • online media;
  • politicisation

Abstract

Does the increasing politicisation of Europe signify a step towards the legitimation of the Union? This could be the case if the increased public intensity of debate and polarisation of opinion brought about by politicisation do not fragment the audience and if arguments presented in public are sufficiently clear about the desired nature of the polity. To answer this question, the focus of this article is on dynamic contestation in the public sphere using original data of news platforms and political blogs in 12 EU Member States and transnational websites during the European Parliament election campaign of 2009. The results are, first, that diffuse eurosceptic evaluations dominate public debates despite large variation in the intensity of debate across Member States. Second, a majority of evaluations made, particularly those by citizens leaving comments online, are negative in all countries included in this study. A gap between elites and citizens persists, but it appears less pronounced than often proclaimed in the literature. And third, democracy is a primary concern in EU polity contestation, especially for those evaluating the EU negatively. Although little evidence is found of a fragmentation of audiences, the prominence of diffuse euroscepticism poses a major challenge to legitimation of the Union.