Wishful Thinking Among European Parliamentarians

Sören Holmberg

in Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union

Published in print June 1999 | ISBN: 9780198296614
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600227 | DOI:
 Wishful Thinking Among European Parliamentarians

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This chapter is the last of six on the question of political representation in the EU. It examines the extent to which European parliamentarians have the correct view of voters’ preferences, and the extent to which ‘wishful thinking’—the tendency to see what one wants to see—is a problem in this context. Previous research on this subject is first briefly summarized, and then an analysis is made of data from the European Representation Study on elite perceptions (perceptions of members of the European Parliament, MEPs, and of national parliaments, MNPs) of voter attitudes to four issues: a common European currency; a massive employment policy within the EU; the removal of national borders; and the left–right dimension. The elite perception data are used to test three hypotheses derived from perceptual theory and previous research on elite perception of mass attitudes. Three models of perceptual accuracy, designated assimilation ordering, contrast ordering, and wrong direction ordering, are also advanced. Overall, it is found that a largely irrational tendency towards wishful thinking is more significant for members’ knowledge of voter opinion than other more rational processes of knowledge acquisition; however, the parties that made this analysis possible (i.e. those with opinions differing from those of their voters) constituted a minority among both MNPs (30%) and MEPs (28%), which is precisely the situation in which information channels need to be functioning better rather than worse.

Keywords: border control; common European currency; elite perceptions; employment policy; European parliament; European parliamentarians; EU; left–right ideology; members of national parliaments; members of the European Parliament; national borders; perceptual theory; political representation; unemployment; wishful thinking

Chapter.  5199 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: European Union

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