Abstract: In a popular referendum in 2005, French voters rejected their country’s adoption of a proposed EU Constitution. Yet, in seeming defiance of the popular vote, the government subsequently proceeded to implement the core of the legislation without consulting the public again. This article empirically examines the electoral impacts of these events. We build a comprehensive fine-grained dataset of nationwide election results for more than 36,000 metropolitan French municipalities. Employing cross-sectional analysis for all national elections held in the decade after the referendum vote, we find that the strength of a municipality’s rejection of the EU Constitution in 2005 is associated with a lower voter turnout, higher shares of blank votes, and larger gains for anti-system parties in subsequent elections. The findings are robust to various modelling choices and the inclusion of a large array of controls. The results indicate that bypassing a popular vote could entail protracted adverse effects on the quality of democratic participation and deliberation.
Keywords: anti-system politics; electoral participation; EU; EU Constitution; France; party cartelization; referendum