Debating Europe: Effects of the “Eurovision Debate” on EU Attitudes of Young German Voters and the Moderating Role Played by Political Involvement

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Debating Europe: Effects of the “Eurovision Debate” on EU Attitudes of Young German Voters and the Moderating Role Played by Political Involvement


  • Jürgen Maier Department of Political Science, University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany
  • Berthold Rittberger Department of Political Science, University of Munich, Germany
  • Thorsten Faas Department of Political Science, University of Mainz, Germany


Abstract  In the run-up to the elections to the European Parliament in 2014, EU citizens had the unprecedented opportunity to watch televised debates between the candidates running for president of the European Commission. The most important debate was the so-called “Eurovision debate”, which was broadcasted in almost all EU member states. In this study we explore the responses of a sample of 110 young German voters, who watched this debate, to the candidates’ messages and whether exposure to the debate caused a shift in the respondents’ attitudes towards the EU. Combining data from a quasi-experiment, real-time response data, and data from a content analysis of the debate, we find that respondents’ reactions to the candidates’ statements were—on average—positive and that some respondents displayed attitudinal changes resulting in more favorable views towards the EU. Although the direct connection between real-time responses and post-debate attitudes is not as strong as expected, most of the measured effects indicate that a positive evaluation of the candidates’ messages usually results in more pro-European attitudes. Furthermore, we find no strong evidence that political knowledge moderates debate effects. In general, differences between political ‘novices’ and political ‘experts’ tend to be rare.


Keywords  EU attitudes; European election; evaluation of candidate statements; political knowledge; televised debates


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v4i1.456