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"How to involve the European citizenry in European politics? Emotions, media discourse, and mobilisation." (ENGAGING EU CITIZENS)
Start date: Jan 1, 2012, End date: May 28, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"The research project sets out to describe the mechanism that explains how political entrepreneurs created mass mobilisations by engaging European citizens against Haider's FPÖ, against the Bolkestein directive, and against Turkish membership. The lack of citizen participation is often assumed to be the main problem of democracy at the European level. The recent mass mobilisations are puzzling, as not much has changed in the circumstances that were thought to cause the apathy of citizens towards European politics. Contrary to the actor- and structure-centred accounts found in the European integration literature, this research project focuses on the activating quality of emotionally-loaded media discourse by incorporating insights from media effect theory and collective action theory. While it is known how citizens become politically engaged with national politics, the peculiarity of multi-level European decision-making, and, especially, the profoundly different political opportunity structure for mobilisation on European issues need to be taken into account.Knowledge on the necessary circumstances for engaging citizens with European politics is elicited by comparing three issues with high levels of mobilisation to three similar issues with low levels of mobilisation. Media discourse and citizens' political behaviour in Germany, France and Switzerland is analysed via a qualitative and quantitative content analysis and by consulting social movement databases. The non-EU Switzerland serves as a validity check. Subsequently, an experiment with a pre-test/post-test design is held to test the main independent variables related to emotionally-loaded media discourse, while controlling for the relevant intervening variables. By disclosing whether politicisation is the prerogative of Eurosceptics, or may lead to the kind of contestation beneficial to democratic politics, this interdisciplinary project will disclose the prospects for civic participation in European politics."

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