Abstract: Is electoral behaviour affected by the current challenges of the EU and, if it is, through which channels and mechanisms? This study offers a cross-national analysis together with a broad understanding of both the crisis phenomenon and electoral behaviour. To investigate this research question appropriately, we first distinguish at the most general level between the two main behavioural alternatives at play when it comes to electoral behaviour, namely abstention and vote choice. Second, and no less important, we differentiate between the mechanisms that mediate the relationship between the ‘EU under stress’ and electoral behaviour, namely egocentric and sociotropic economic voting motivations. Drawing on data from the European Election Study 2014, our article provides important insights into the study of electoral behaviour in an EU under stress. First, we are able to show that the multiple crises that have hit the EU have the potential to determine both turnout and the decision to vote for a Eurosceptic party. Second, different mechanisms are in play for each of the two behavioural alternatives: Turnout is clearly related to egocentric determinants and thus depends on individuals’ personal exposure to the financial crisis. Conversely, the decision to vote for a Eurosceptic party is based on a different mechanism. Voters—without necessarily being personally affected by the crisis—have a higher propensity to vote for a Eurosceptic party if they perceive their country to be threatened by such an EU under stress. These findings add to a better understanding of the EU’s multi-level democracy.
Keywords: economic voting; electoral behaviour; European crises; European Parliament elections; Eurosceptic parties; multi-level analysis; multi-level system