De Wilde, P. (2014) “Online discussions show the depth of Eurosceptic feeling across Europe, but they tell us very little about the kind of EU that citizens would like to see“, LSE EUROPP, 25 February.
Can online discussions, such as comment sections in articles and blog posts, give a clear insight into citizens’ views on the EU? Pieter de Wilde outlines results of a study on the nature of online discussions about the EU. Using a typology of different types of evaluations of the EU, he notes that the majority of contributions to online discussions are notably Eurosceptic. However, a great many of these contributions simply voice criticism of the EU without advocating any specific reforms. The dominance of this kind of comment – which he terms ‘diffuse Euroscepticism’ – ensures that online discussions offer relatively little information about the kind of EU citizens would like to see.
European Parliament elections are not technically about the question of ‘more or less Europe’ because the European Parliament does not have a major say over questions of membership or Treaty revision. However, we find lively online discussions about such constitutional issues over the EU polity during the election campaign. The most frequently visited online news platforms throughout Europe provide a large number of stories on European integration and their readers take the opportunity to leave comments about their opinion of the EU. The vast majority of online discussion contributions criticise the EU in one way or another and complain that the EU is undemocratic. Yet, since no proposals for reforming the union are provided, such ‘diffuse Euroscepticism’ provides a major challenge to the legitimacy of European integration.