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What to do about Inequality? Support for the European Union and Further European Integration in the Republic of Ireland

Simpson, K (2018) What to do about Inequality? Support for the European Union and Further European Integration in the Republic of Ireland. Irish Political Studies, 34 (1). pp. 69-91. ISSN 0790-7184

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Abstract

This paper investigates individual’s perceptions of inequality and the impact this has on mass public opinion support for the European Union (EU) in the Republic of Ireland. This question is posed in the context of the onset of the economic and financial crisis of 2007/8 as the crisis can be regarded as a critical juncture in Ireland’s relationship with the EU as a result of the economic downturn and the widening of economic disparities individuals have experienced. Ireland is a critical case in examining EU support as since its accession to the EU in 1973 it is often considered an exemplar of what the EU could offer small member states with a strongly pro-integrationist mass public. Using Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) multiple regression analysis on 2009 European Election Study (EES) data, this paper shows that individuals’ concerns about inequality lowers support for the EU as it is currently constituted, but increases support for continued European integration. This suggests that individual-levels of support may be in a precarious state, yet they can be salvaged as individuals in Ireland regard the EU as the institutional-driving force to address market-generated inequality.

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