All Spending Is Not Equal: European Union Public Spending, Policy Feedback, and Citizens’ Support for the EU

38 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2017 Last revised: 31 Mar 2017

Date Written: March 20, 2017


While public support is central to the problem-solving capacity of the European Union (EU), we know little about when and why the EU can increase its citizens’ support through spending. Extensive research finds that citizens living in countries that are net beneficiaries of the EU budget are more supportive of the EU, assuming that citizens care equally about all forms of spending. We argue, however, that the amount of spending is only part of the story. Understanding the effects of spending on support requires a consideration of how transfers are spent. Drawing on policy feedback theories in comparative politics, we argue that support for the EU is a function of the fit between the spending area and economic need in individuals’ immediate living context. Results from a statistical analysis of EU spending on human capital, infrastructure, agriculture, energy, and environmental protection in 127 EU regions over the period 2001-2011 corroborate our argument. As the EU and other international organizations become increasingly publicly contested, the organizations themselves may increasingly try to shore up public support through spending, but they will only be successful under specific conditions.

Keywords: European Union; European Structural and Investment Funds; legitimacy; policy feedback; public spending; public support

JEL Classification: D72; D73; E62

Suggested Citation

Dellmuth, Lisa Maria and Chalmers, Adam William, All Spending Is Not Equal: European Union Public Spending, Policy Feedback, and Citizens’ Support for the EU (March 20, 2017). European Journal of Political Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Lisa Maria Dellmuth (Contact Author)

Stockholm University ( email )

Universitetsvägen 10
Stockholm, Stockholm SE-106 91


Adam William Chalmers

Leiden University ( email )

Postbus 9500
Leiden, Zuid Holland 2300 RA

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