Single issue EU referendums: tying hands, domestic effects and the challenge of consentification

Dermot Hodson, University of London and Imelda Maher, University College Dublin

Referendums on specific EU policies or EU integration more generally have become a familiar feature of EU politics. Dermot Hodson and Imelda Maher consider three main explanations for governments’ increasing call for referendums: to secure bargaining advantages at the EU level, to enhance political standing domestically and to (de-)legitimize EU decision-making. Based on case studies of eight single issue referendums in five EU member states, they demonstrate that governments tend to call a referendum when the issue at stake can be approved under domestic law, but lacks political legitimacy. Government leaders use referendums either to manage internal party differences, gain electoral advantages over rivals or boost their personal popularity. In light of these results, Dermot and Imelda contend that referendums as a strategic instrument of direct democracy will remain a prominent feature of EU politics in the future.

The gender gap in support for governments during the COVID crisis

Jacopo Mazza, University of Essex
Jacopo Mazza, European Commission, University of Essex
Marco Scipioni, European Commission
Marco Scipioni, European Commission






The COVID-19 pandemic has an uneven economic impact with women facing more negative financial consequences than men. To understand whether this unequal economic burden translated into gendered differences in support for national governments, Jacopo Mazza and Marco Scipioni analyze survey data on European citizens’ attitudes and opinions during the COVID-19 pandemic between April and October 2020. They show that the initially high support for governments has generally decreased in the period under investigation and that the decline in government support was most pronounced amongst working women. This finding can be explained by the higher burden placed on women who tend to be employed in sectors heavily exposed to pandemic-containment measures in comparison to men. Overall, the article provides further evidence that socio-demographic groups most affected by the crisis are also the ones who express lower support for their government.

A Robin Hood for all: a conjoint experiment on support for basic income

Leire Rincón, University of Berlin
Leire Rincón, Humboldt University of Berlin

Under which conditions do individuals support a universal basic income (UBI)? Taking a comparative perspective, Leire Rincon investigates how the specific design of UBI shapes public support for such a policy compared to other policy proposals. Leire argues that its universality and unconditionality generate opposition to UBI since these principles depart from traditional welfare rationales of giving those in need. Hence, if deservingness considerations are met, support for UBI should increase. The results of a conjoint experiment conducted in Spain reveal that while universality is the most controversial feature of the policy, unconditionality is not. Additionally, using progressive funding mechanisms such as taxing the rich and limiting eligibility increase support for UBI. The findings imply that support for UBI may be fostered through policy design (i.e. if the policy is funded by the rich) so that even unpopular features may enjoy public backing.