Honors College Theses

Date

2021

Major

International Studies (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Jamie Scalera

Abstract

The increasing success of Eurosceptic parties in national and European elections is undeniable. In the last twenty years, the European Union (EU) has faced economic, social, and political crises without much time in between. As a result, we are now the witnesses to an institutional crisis rendered even more real by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU in January 2020. In this paper, I analyze the changes in rhetorical strategies employed by Eurosceptic parties to gather stronger electoral support.

Many scholars have now agreed that Euroscepticism and the parties representing it have become mainstream and accepted by the general public (Taggart and Szczerbiak, 2018). The journey to that acceptance, however, is less clear. While most agree that the crises that shook the EU have served as catalysts of success for Eurosceptic parties, the strategies employed to gather and use that momentum is less evident.

Based on the cleavage theory and its subsequent adaptations, I argue that the distinction between domestic and transnational perspectives of issues can be used to understand shifts in party rhetoric and changes in their electoral scores. I use electoral data, scores from the Party Manifesto Project (Volkens et al., 2020), and original manifesto analyses to better comprehend the rhetoric of blame and its impact on party success. My findings suggest that the blame of transnational rather than domestic institutions for EU-wide issues is a strategy that allows Eurosceptic parties to strengthen their core and expand their electoral gain.

Thesis Summary

The increasing success of Eurosceptic parties in national and European elections is undeniable. In the last twenty years, the European Union (EU) has faced economic, social, and political crises without much time in between. As a result, we are now the witnesses to an institutional crisis rendered even more real by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU in January 2020. In this paper, I analyze the changes in rhetorical strategies employed by Eurosceptic parties to gather stronger electoral support. Many scholars have now agreed that Euroscepticism and the parties representing it have become mainstream and accepted by the general public (Taggart and Szczerbiak, 2018). The journey to that acceptance, however, is less clear. While most agree that the crises that shook the EU have served as catalysts of success for Eurosceptic parties, the strategies employed to gather and use that momentum is less evident. I argue that the distinction between domestic and transnational perspectives of issues can be used to understand shifts in party rhetoric and changes in their electoral scores. I use electoral data from the European Parliament and scores from the Party Manifesto Project (Volkens et al., 2020) to better comprehend the rhetoric of blame and its impact on party success. My findings suggest that transnational blame is a strategy that allows Eurosceptic parties to strengthen their core and expand their electoral gains. Understanding this shift in rhetoric – and its larger consequences – is of drastic importance for the future of the EU and other international institutions that model themselves after the EU. The use of transnational blame by political parties may hold important implications for the EU in the long-term, including whether it will force institutional changes for the Union or even threaten its survival.

Available for download on Tuesday, March 29, 2022

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