This Blog will feature opinions on European affairs by members of the Centre for European Politics. Comments are welcome in English.

Portuguese MEPs in 1986

 In researching the number of MEPs per national party, it is difficult to discover the names and parties of temporary MEPs appointed just after a country joins the European Union. In these cases, and before the first election to the European Parliament in new member states, members of the national parliament are seconded to the European Parliament and sit as full MEPs. If the European Parliament holds internal elections at the time, these temporary MEPs count towards the totals necessary for political groups to obtain positions like the chairs of parliamentary committees.

One website is very useful in tracking the number of MEPs per country and per national party elected to the Party groups:

http://www.europe-politique.eu/elections-europeennes.htm

But it does not contain information on temporary MEPs by party appointed by national parliaments immediately after a country joins the EU, pending the first elections.

A visit to one of the European Parliament's archives provided me with old paper catalogues that contained this information concerning MEPs from Portugal from January 1986 until the first EP elections in Portugal in July 1987:

 

Group

Party

MEPs

LDR

PSD

9

SOC

PS

6

EDA

PRD

4

COM

PCP

3

EPP

CDS

2

 

Posted on Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 12:44PM by Registered CommenterDr Giacomo Benedetto | CommentsPost a Comment

Symposium on Strategic Narrative Published.

The journal Critical Studies on Security has just published a symposium on research published by CEP co-director Alister Miskimmon and New Political Communications Unit co-director Ben O'Loughlin.

The symposium, edited by Dr Laura J. Sheppard from the University of New South Wales, includes a number of different perspectives on the concept of strategic narrative outlined in Miskimmon and O'Loughlin's 2013 book entitled: Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order.

The symposium includes contributions from a range of scholars and a response from Miskimmon and O'Loughlin and their co-author Laura Roselle.

Posted on Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 12:32PM by Registered CommenterDr Alister Miskimmon | CommentsPost a Comment

Royal Holloway student project reveals David Cameron’s inflammatory language on immigration affects public opinion negatively

Royal Holloway student project reveals David Cameron’s inflammatory language on immigration affects public opinion negatively

Executive Summary

In the House of Commons on Wednesday David Cameron referred to people in camps at Calais as a ‘bunch of migrants’. A spokesman for the Labour Leader said the Prime Minister’s comments were evidence of a ‘wholly contemptible’ attitude towards refugees. This was not the first time that Cameron had been accused of using inflammatory language on the subject. Last summer he expressed concern about ‘swarms of migrants’ from the Middle East trying to ‘break in to Britain’ from Calais. His choice of language then was criticised by the Deputy leader of the Labour party Harriet Harman as ‘dehumanising’.

The controversy that these episodes provoked inspired the students in the Department of Politics and IR at Royal Holloway to examine the impact of language on public attitudes. Does referring to people as ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ affect how much support people have for letting Syrians come and live in the UK? Or are people not swayed by one word over the other? The reasons why word choice might make a difference have a certain intuitive appeal. The term ‘migrant’ is frequently associated with people coming to the UK to look for work and has developed a number of negative connotations. By contrast, the term ‘refugee’ refers to people in genuine need who are fleeing from persecution. All other things being equal, we would expect people to be more sympathetic to the plight of refugees than migrants, even if the words are being used to describe exactly the same group of people.

In order to answer this question the students carried out an online survey experiment with PsyToolkit. The experimental design provides a robust way of isolating the effect of word choice and is a useful way of establishing cause and effect while holding other variables constant. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of two treatment conditions. The first condition involved asking the following survey question:

Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more migrants from Syria to come and                  live in the UK?

The second condition asked an identical question; but substituted the word migrant for refugee:

Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more refugees from Syria to come and                  live in the UK?

In both cases respondents could answer: strongly disagree, disagree, agree or strongly agree. The survey was carried out from the 23rd to the 26th November, 2015. The sample was recruited by the students using Facebook, twitter and group chat. Although the sample itself is not randomly selected, crucially, for the purpose of the experiment, respondents were randomly assigned to one of the two treatment conditions. This means that whatever differences we observe in our results can be attributed to the exposure of different word choices. Over 1850 people completed the survey, of which 56% were female and 42% still in full time education.

The table below shows the results. Although the differences between the two groups are not great, they are statistically significant. Respondents were more likely to ‘strongly agree’ with the statement that refugees from Syria should be allowed into the UK than with the corresponding statement about migrants (23 percent vs. 17 percent). The difference between the two groups of 6 percentage points is not trivial. Moreover the mean level of agreement between the two groups is statistically significant. Talking about ‘migrants’ instead of ‘refugees’ has a negative influence on public opinion.

 

Group 1: Migrants

Group 2: Refugees

(1) Strongly disagree

11%

10%

(2) Disagree

27%

24%

(3) Agree

45%

44%

(4) Strongly agree

17%

23%

Mean

2.68

2.79

N

937

982

 

The results of this experiment indicate that choice of language can exert a noticeable impact on public attitudes. We have investigated the difference between two relatively neutral terms – though terms with distinct meanings – and observe clear effects. More inflammatory language, such as describing people as ‘swarms of migrants’ can only elicit stronger reactions. Politicians then would be wise to pay attention to the words they use. Cameron might deny using inflammatory language, but that does not mean that the words he used had no negative effect on the way people see refugees fleeing from Syria.

Notes: The experiment was designed, carried out and analysed by PR1600 students as part of their first year methods course in the Department of Politics and IR at Royal Holloway. The course convenors are Oliver Heath and Kaat Smets. The teaching assistants are Daniela Lai, Ellen Watts and Rakib Ehsan. This report provides a summary of the findings from the student reports. A full student version of the report is available below.

 

Full Report: Attitudes towards immigrants and refugees: A survey experiment

Emma Temple and Olivia Walsh

PR1600: Introduction to Research Methods

Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London

Introduction

The question we have chosen to investigate in this experiment is ‘Does language used affect public attitudes?’ To put this experiment into context, we are investigating whether describing people from Syria as ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ affects how much support people have for letting Syrians come and live in the UK. 

The justification for the investigation of this question stems from a recent speech in which David Cameron referred to the people of Syria attempting to gain entry into the UK as a “swarm of migrants”. The backlash and large amounts of criticism which arose regarding the choice of language in this speech makes for an interesting and very relevant topic to investigate. The effect of language on public attitudes is highly relevant in the context of free speech and media reporting. The results of this experiment have important implications on the appropriateness and effectiveness of persuasive methods used by the media and public speeches. By comparing the effects of language, we hope to discover a pattern which can help to put into perspective both the seriousness and relevance of linguistic influence. This investigation could also act as a gateway to further research regarding the development of public attitudes.

Hypothesis

The ‘Syrian Crisis’ has been a topic which has dominated political discussion and public opinion in 2015. By describing Syrians fleeing persecution as a “swarm of migrants” David Cameron reignited an interesting debate – is it ‘politically correct’ to call people fleeing persecution “migrants”, or does this unfairly alter the public’s perception of people in need?

Many political researchers have identified the role of the media in shaping public attitudes towards immigration. Esses et al. (2008) identified that the media can “promote the dehumanization of refugees.” In terms of language influence, much of the research done appears to be based on the framing of a certain concept (e.g. describing an “immigrant” as “illegal” or discussing immigration in line with security). For example, Lakoff and Ferguson (2006) conducted research on framing, and conclude that the “immigration issue is a complex melange of social, economic, cultural and security concerns”. Similarly, according to Hainmueller and Hopkins (2014) “anti-immigrant hostility is grounded in the portrayals of groups by parties and the mass media.” Indeed, Holmes emphasises that these “stereotypes tend to display massive resilience” (Holmes, 1991, p.17). Again, this research indicates that there are negative connotations associated with the term immigration. However, there is little research that directly compares the effect on public opinion of referring to people as either migrants or refugees. Therefore it will be of interest to test whether the use of language, in this case the use of the words “migrants” or “refugees”, has an impact on public attitudes towards people coming to the UK from Syria.

The hypothesis that will be tested for this experiment is as follows: when the question is phrased “Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more refugees from Syria to come and live in the UK?” the level of agreement with the question will be higher than when the question is phrased using the word “migrants” instead of “refugees”. This is a directional hypothesis – a specific difference in agreement between the two conditions is expected from this experiment, with condition 2 (“refugees”) having higher levels of agreement that condition 1 (“migrants”).

Methodology

In order to test this hypothesis PR1600 students in the Department of Politics and IR at Royal Holloway, University of London carried out an online survey experiment. The sample was recruited by the students, mainly through social media. In particular, ‘Facebook’ and instant messaging services such as ‘iMessage’ and ‘WhatsApp’ were used to spread awareness of the experiment to people outside the department. A cohort of roughly 150 students were advised to attempt to recruit 10 people each to complete the survey. The final sample consisted of 2224 respondents, of which 1850 provided valid responses.

The survey experiment was conducted online using PsyToolkit. By conducting the investigation on the internet a wide and diverse sample could be recruited relatively easily in a short amount of time. In selecting the sample for the survey experiment, we did not need to use a random sample; we were not trying to generalise our findings to the entire population, but, rather, we were concerned with the impact that language has upon someone’s views. Participants were randomly allocated to one of two experimental conditions, allowing us to attribute any differences between these groups to the treatment. Indeed, Donald P. Green and Alan S. Gerber assert that random assignment “ensures unbiased inference about cause and effect” (Green and Gerber, 2003, p.94). Furthermore, randomisation of treatments provides “the advantage of a high degree of internal validity” (Barabas and Jerit, 2010, p.227).

To develop our survey questions and ensure that they were posed in a neutral format we followed David De Vaus’ ‘Question wording checklist’ (De Vaus, 2002, p.97). The first condition used the question:  “Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more migrants from Syria to come and live in the UK?”  The second condition replaced the word “migrants” with the word “refugees”. So, our independent variable was whether the word “migrants” or “refugees” was used, and the outcome variable of interest was the level of agreement in response to each question. Participants were given four response options to the question; strongly disagree, disagree, agree or strongly agree. In undertaking the survey experiment, there were several ethical issues that had to be considered: voluntary participation, informed consent, privacy, and harm (Halperin and Heath, 2012, pp.178-180). Respondents were informed that all their answers would be anonymous. The survey was live for five days and fieldwork took place between 23rd and 26th November 2015.

Results

The results of the experiment are shown in Table 1. Respondents are more likely to support people coming from Syria to live in the UK if they are referred to as ‘refugees’, rather than ‘migrants’. When we use the word ‘refugee’, the level of agreement increases; when we refer to ‘migrants’, the level of agreement decreases. The results of the survey experiment support the hypothesis, and thus confirm our expectations. Whereas 23 percent of Group 2 ‘strongly agree’ with supporting refugees from Syria, just 17 percent of Group 1 do so:  the 6 percentage point difference between Group 1 and Group 2 is statistically significant. The difference in the mean level of agreement also supports the hypothesis as it is significantly higher in the second condition than in the first condition. These results thus corroborate our main hypothesis that language does affect public attitudes towards immigration.

Table 1:           “Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more migrants/refugees                   from Syria to come and live in the UK?”

 

Condition 1 – “Migrants”

Condition 2 – “Refugees”

(1)  Strongly Disagree

11%

10%

(2)  Disagree

27%

24%

(3)  Agree

45%

44%

(4)  Strongly Agree

17%

23%

Mean

2.68

2.79

N

937

982

 

Conclusion

The data shows that word choice does have an effect on public attitudes. In the context of this experiment, the data suggests that the wording chosen to describe Syrians does have an impact upon how much support people have for letting them live in the UK. So, when it comes to attempting to resolve this ongoing issue, consideration should be taken of the fact that language is an important tool in influencing public opinion.

Notes: The experiment was designed, carried out and analysed by PR1600 students as part of their first year methods course in the Department of Politics and IR at Royal Holloway. This report provides a summary of the findings from two of the student reports.

Bibliography

Barabas, J. and Jerit, J. (May 2010) ‘Are Survey Experiments Externally Valid?’, The American Political Science Review, 104 (2), 226-242

Citrin, J. Green, D. Muste, C. and Wong, C. (1997) ‘Public Opinion toward Immigration Reform the Role of Economic Motivations’, The Journal of Politics, 59(3): 858-881.

Esses, V. M., Veenvliet, S., Hodson, G. and Mihic, L. (March 2008) ‘Justice, Morality, and the Dehumanization of Refugees’, Social Justice Research, 21 (1), 4-25

Green, D. P. and Gerber, A. S. (September 2003) ‘The Underprovision of Experiments in Political Science’, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 589, 94-112

Hainmueller, J. and Hopkins, D. (2014) ‘Public attitudes toward immigration’ Annual Review of Political Science, 17, 225-249.

Hall, S. (2015) Focus: migration and election 2015 [online]. Discovery Society. Available from: http://discoversociety.org/2015/02/01/focus-migration-and-election-2015/

Halperin, S. and Heath, O. (2012) Political Research: Methods and Practical Skills. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Holmes, C. (1991) A Tolerant Country? Immigrants, Refugees and Minorities in Britain. London: Faber and Faber

Lakoff, G. and Ferguson, S. (2007), The Framing of Immigration [online]. The Rockridge Institute. Available from: http://afrolatinoproject.org/2007/09/24/the-framing-of-immigration-5/

Mayda, A. (2006) ‘Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Public AttitudeToward Immigrants.’ The Review of Economics and Statistics, 88(3), 510–530.

 

 

Posted on Friday, January 29, 2016 at 11:15AM by Registered CommenterDr Alister Miskimmon | CommentsPost a Comment

Procedure: What happens if the UK votes to leave the EU?

There is much confusion about this question and many of the supporters of Brexit claim that an à la carte arrangement can be crafted for the UK to trade with the EU without having to accept free movement of people. Others hope that a second referendum to confirm or cancel Brexit may be possible.

Interpretation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty should help.

Paragraph 2: A member state [the UK] may give notice of withdrawal. Negotiations will occur “taking account of the framework for its [the UK’s] future relationship with the Union”. Agreement will be reached by Council qualified majority, excluding the exiting member state [meaning that at least 4 member states representing at least 28% of the EU’s population - (i.e. 0.28*440M=123million) - may veto an agreement]. The European Parliament or the UK government may also veto an agreement.

[The European Parliament or member states containing at least 123 million people could block an agreement that does not respect free movement of people. A further intracacy is that until March 2017, a member state can ask for Council votes to take place under the old pre-Lisbon voting system. This would mean that a qualified majority could be blocked instead by 85 out of 323 votes on the Council or by 10 member states if they collectively have fewer than 85 votes. If agreement is easier under the old system, there will be a time pressure to conclude negotiations before March 2017.]

Paragraph 3: The UK exits on the date the agreement comes into force. If there is no agreement, the UK exits without an agreement and is outside the EU treaties exactly two years after giving notice. [The UK could exit before the two years are up if this is part of an agreement.] The only way to stop this is if the Council (all 27 plus the UK) unanimously agrees to continue the talks beyond the two-year cut-off point.

Paragraph 4: During the negotiations, the UK will be absent from meetings where the EU’s governments decide their position.

Article 50 is deliberately non-committal as to whether a member state could cancel its notice of withdrawal before the two years are up if it changes its mind, for example, through a second referendum. Indeed, if the referendum result is for LEAVE, then it is difficult to see how the British government could delay giving formal notice while hoping to secure concessions from the EU that would allow a re-run of the referendum.

If the UK does indeed leave without an agreement, it would find itself outside all of the EU’s projects and market, including scientific research. Access to these would need to be negotiated one by one with no guarantee of success. Without an agreement on free movement of people, British expatriates resident in other member states of the EU may have their rights of residency withdrawn if the rights of EU nationals resident in the UK are also affected.

 Article 50 appears below:

 

 

 

 

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

Posted on Sunday, January 3, 2016 at 11:14PM by Registered CommenterDr Giacomo Benedetto | CommentsPost a Comment

State of Emergency in France: What is Article 16?

After the horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris, François Hollande has assumed emergency powers across the totality of French territory. It is the first time that this has happened since 1963 and they are an inheritance from Charles de Gaulle and Michel Debré who designed the French Constitution in 1958 amid the crisis of the war for Algerian independence. The events of 1958 almost led to a regime collapse as General Jacques Massu was planning a military takeover. Instead de Gaulle’s new constitution beefed up the powers of the President and provided him with quasi-dictatorial state of emergency powers under the new Article 16 (see text below) in order to deal with the crisis of Algeria and to head off insubordination in the army born of the near-breakdown of the French Republic. It is these powers that Hollande has inherited.

Left-wing parties’ biggest reason for campaigning against the new constitution in the referendum of September 1958 was Article 16, which they feared would be used against them. But the fact is that, until now, the only time Article 16 was applied in the whole of France occurred between 1961 and 1963 to deal with a further attempted coup by French generals in Algeria and, in 1962, to deal with the forcible evacuation of French settlers from an Algeria that was granted independence. In other words, de Gaulle never used Article 16 against the Left, not even in May 1968, and instead applied it against those who had been his political sympathisers in the army and among the French settlers in Algeria.

To get the 1958 constitution approved, de Gaulle and Debré included a number of checks and balances within Article 16. First, the President must “consult” with the Prime Minister, the Presidents of both chambers of Parliament, and with the Constitutional Council (which is France’s Constitutional Court). He can ignore them but must ask for their views. If consensus on emergency powers is lacking, this could have a powerful effect on public opinion. Likewise, if they are not already sitting, the Parliament has to be recalled and cannot be dissolved for early elections. The Parliament may not exercise legislative power but it is forced to deliberate, which could again have a powerful effect in the court of public opinion if a President abuses his powers. After two months, the Constitutional Council has the right to end the state of emergency if circumstances no longer require it and if the President refuses to do so. The Constitutional Council also has this power after just one month if the President of either chamber of Parliament, or 60 members of either chamber request it to do so.

 

 

Article 16

Where the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the Nation, the integrity of its territory or the fulfilment of its international commitments are under serious and immediate threat, and where the proper functioning of the constitutional public authorities is interrupted, the President of the Republic shall take measures required by these circumstances, after formally consulting the Prime Minister, the Presidents of the Houses of Parliament and the Constitutional Council.

He shall address the Nation and inform it of such measures.

The measures shall be designed to provide the constitutional public authorities as swiftly as possible, with the means to carry out their duties. The Constitutional Council shall be consulted with regard to such measures.

Parliament shall sit as of right.

The National Assembly shall not be dissolved during the exercise of such emergency powers.

After thirty days of the exercise of such emergency powers, the matter may be referred to the Constitutional Council by the President of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, sixty Members of the National Assembly or sixty Senators, so as to decide if the conditions laid down in paragraph one still apply. It shall make its decision by public announcement as soon as possible. It shall, as of right, carry out such an examination and shall make its decision in the same manner after sixty days of the exercise of emergency powers or at any moment thereafter.

 

Posted on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 09:59AM by Registered CommenterDr Giacomo Benedetto | CommentsPost a Comment
Page | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Next 5 Entries