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This paper addresses the issue of whether there has been a change in public attitudes towards European integration over time, both in terms of a breakdown in the “permissive consensus” of citizens and a passage to the “constraining dissensus.” The thesis of “constraining dissensus” has been theorized by Hooghe and Marks in terms of citizens’ progressive politicization and the polarization of their attitudes, which derive from the consolidation and prominence of the integration process. By proposing another time cutting and by using variances and kurtosis measures to tap polarization of attitudes, this text mobilizes a complementary longitudinal analysis of Eurobarometer data (1970-2002), building on previous work of Down and Wilson (2008). Empirically, this paper finds that in the post-Maastricht Treaty era, the basic shift is one towards an indifferent and undecided attitude and not towards rejection. Besides the well-known Euroscepticism, the indifference and the indecision of lay citizens are indeed an overwhelming and understudied phenomenon. It concludes that it is necessary to incorporate the notion and the role of indifference and indecision into any reflection on the legitimacy of the European integration process.


  • polarization
  • citizens’ attitudes
  • measures of dispersion
  • European integration
  • permissive consensus
Virginie Van Ingelgom
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