LET’S TALK EUROPE

DEBATING THE EU WITH CITIZENS



From face to face interviews to focus groups, how qualitative studies contribute to the study of citizens’ attitudes towards European integration?, Celine Belot, Science-Po Grenoble, CNRS

 

The body of studies focusing on citizens’ attitudes towards the EU and European integration is nowadays tremendous. When most of these studies are based on the use of quantitative data, mostly the Eurobarometers and the European Election Studies (EES), a qualitative turn has been observed from the beginning of the 2000’s onwards. Looking back at two qualitative researches I was part of - a Franco-British comparison using interviews at the end of the 1990s and the RESTEP Erasmus+ project (Transatlantic Network on the Politicization of Europe) which collected focus-groups in three European countries at the time of the 2019 European election campaign – I propose to sketch an overview of the contributions allowed by qualitative research in this field.

 

Céline Belot is researcher at the French national council for research (CNRS), Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Sciences-Po Grenoble, Pacte. While long studying citizens’ attitudes toward European integration using both qualitative and quantitative studies, she is as well developing a new project investigating the use of public opinion polling by the European Commission. She recently published in West European politics, the European Journal of Politics and Gender and French Politics.



Debating Europe critically: approaches, potential and limits with evidence from the Future of Europe debate, Luis Bouza Garcia, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

 

OpenEUdebate is a Jean Monnet network bridging academic and practical knowledge on EU policies to create a transnational bottom up dialogue on the EU. We intend to match EU’s policies with politics at the national level through a platform connecting the debate in the EU institutions and transnational civil society platforms with national publics by connecting existing knowledge on EU issues with the growing demand for evidence-based debates. The network works with opinion leaders, think tanks, academics and civil society organisations of all political tendencies who share the need to connect analysis and policy to renew public debate on Europe in different member states.

This presentation introduces the methods, experiences and results of the network's work on the Future of Europe debate from the preparation of the Sibiu summit to the beginning of the Conference on the Future of Europe. It reflects on the potential for critical debate on Europe of the multiple venues for engagement (from salient issues in the public sphere to citizens' consultations passing by European election campaign) and on the results and limits the network has experienced in involving stakeholders in debates on the subject issue using different methods.

 



Making people talk about Europe, Marine de Lassalle, UMR SAGE, Strasbourg University

 

Marine de Lassalle will first give an overview of the focus group as a qualitative research method. She will concentrate on the questions, how to do focus groups and how to analyze them, with reference to the Concorde survey but also to other works aiming at making people talk about Europe.

She will then come back to the main results of her research and more specifically to the "student" representations of Europe.



Citizens Talking About Europe: Focus groups, From Qualitative Data Generation to Analysis, Virginie van Ingelgom, Research Associate Professor F.R.S - FNRS, UCLouvain

 

Over the last decade, focus groups have become quite fashionable in studying citizens' perceptions and reactions towards European integration (e.g. Baglioni & Hurrelmann, 2016; Beaudonnet, et al., forthcoming; Delmotte, Mercenier, Van Ingelgom, 2017; Duchesne, et al., 2010, 2013; Van Ingelgom, 2014; White, 2010, 2011), notably because of the richness of discourse and interactions that they give access to. But the method is more demanding than usually expected. Using focus groups not only requires more resources than other qualitative method; it also implies to make a large series of decisions concerning the different technical aspects involved from design and organisation to analysis. These many decisions supposed to be very clear about one’s research objectives. The presentation will introduce to the variety of focus groups’ uses, in terms of epistemology and research topics specifically applied to political science and European integration studies (Van Ingelgom, 2020). Then the complete process of focus group’s organisation will be discussed briefly– including classical problems like sampling, designing questions and moderation, but also more down to earth” questions like setting the room, recording, contacting, selecting and rewarding participants etc. Lastly, an important part of the presentation will be devoted to the analysis of focus groups dealing with European integration: focus group discussions are more complex to analyse than standard face-to-face interviews. A mix of several methods (interpretation, codification and automatic textual analysis) will be suggested.



How taxi-drivers talk about Europe, Jonathan White, London School of economics

 

Research on public attitudes towards the EU has always tended to focus on the opinions elicited in response to direct questioning – how people respond, that is, in questionnaires or interviews when asked to express views about matters European.  In a book published ten years ago - Political Allegiance after European Integration - I took a different approach.  Using open-ended group interviews with taxi-drivers in Britain, Germany and the Czech Republic, I examined what people have to say about the EU in the absence of directly prompting, and how the topic is woven into wider descriptions of politics.  This presentation explores the method used and the results produced.

Bio: Jonathan White is Professor of Politics at the LSE. He has held visiting positions at the Berlin Institute of Advanced Studies, Harvard, Stanford, the Humboldt University, Hertie School, Sciences Po in Paris, and the Australian National University. Books include Politics of Last Resort (Oxford University Press, 2019), The Meaning of Partisanship (with Lea Ypi, Oxford University Press, 2016), and Political Allegiance after European Integration (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). He was awarded the 2017 British Academy Brian Barry Prize for Excellence in Political Science.



Eurostars and Eurocities (2008) and Pioneers of European Integration (2009): Theoretical and Methodological Reflections, Adrian Favell, University of Leeds

 

How can we do an empirical sociology of Europeanisation -- particularly against the backdrop of growing crisis with the European project over the last decade? In this lecture, I look back at two interlinked projects which attempted to develop qualitative and quantitative strategies for studying the everyday effects of European integration, and reflect on the development of the sociology of the European Union since then. For more information see attached reading or this online extract.

Adrian Favell is Chair in Sociology and Social Theory at the University of Leeds, where he directs the Bauman Institute. He is also a research associate of the Centre d’études européennes et de politique comparée (CEE), Sciences Po, Paris. He is the author of various works on migration, immigration politics, cosmopolitanism and cities, including Philosophies of Integration (1998), Eurostars and Eurocities (2008), and a collection of essays, Immigration, Integration and Mobility: New Agendas in Migration Studies (2015). He is currently the PI of the UK ESRC project ‘Northern Exposure: Race, Nation and Disaffection in “Ordinary” Towns and Cities after Brexit’.