All spending is not equal: European Union public spending, policy feedback and citizens' support for the EU

Lisa M. Dellmuth*, Adam W. Chalmers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

While public support is central to the problem-solving capacity of the European Union, we know little about when and why the EU can increase its citizens’ support through spending. Extensive research finds that citizens living in countries that are net beneficiaries of the EU budget are more supportive of the EU, assuming that citizens care equally about all forms of spending. It is argued in this article, however, that the amount of spending is only part of the story. Understanding the effects of spending on support requires a consideration of how transfers are spent. Drawing on policy feedback theories in comparative politics, it is shown that support for the EU is a function of the fit between the spending area and economic need in individuals’ immediate living context. Results from a statistical analysis of EU spending on human capital, infrastructure, agriculture, energy and environmental protection in 127 EU regions over the period 2001–2011 corroborate this argument. As the EU and other international organisations become increasingly publicly contested, the organisations themselves may increasingly try to shore up public support through spending, but they will only be successful under specific conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-23
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Issue number1
Early online date30 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • European Structural and Investment Funds
  • legitimacy
  • policy feedback
  • public spending
  • public support


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