British Public Opinion and mass-elite relations on eu enlargement: Implications on the democratic deficit debate

Oya Dursun-Ozkanca, Elizabethtown College


Despite the fact that the public in Britain had predominantly negative attitudes towards the Eastern enlargement of the European Union (EU) in 2004, the British government endorsed this policy. Since the legitimacy of elite actions on EU affairs depends on the level of public support, it is important to study the formation of public opinion and the political communication processes in the European context. Using Flash Eurobarometer survey data, this article first tests the determinants of public support for EU enlargement in Britain. It then examines the nature of the relationship between elites and public opinion on the 2004 enlargement. It concludes that the public discussion about enlargement in Britain was fuelled by hysteria rather than facts, and that the British policymakers failed to both provide the worried public with clear facts on the possible effects of enlargement and take substantive policy decisions to alleviate popular concerns. © 2014 CEU Political Science Journal.