The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement negotiated between the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), generated an unprecedented debate across Europe. Unlike previous EU trade agreements, citizens have become highly polarized on the topic, to the point where negotiations have come to a standstill due to, among other factors, the negative pressure of public opinion in several member states. TTIP supporters claim that the agreement would generate growth, jobs, and increase geopolitical power for the transatlantic axis, while its critics argue that it would inherently alter the state-market relationship, undermining democracy and the European welfare state. In this paper, we aim to develop a better understanding of the TTIP controversy by empirically analyzing public opinion attitudes towards free trade in general and the specific agreement in particular. Using recent data from the Eurobarometer, we construct a set of bivariate probit models to check the consistency of these preferences across individuals and disentangle the factors which drive them. By way of different variables that control for the two main lines of argument put forward in the debates regarding the TTIP and free trade, we assess the determinants of citizen’s opinion consistency (or inconsistency) toward both of them. Our results indicate a stronger impact of the values concerning the European integration process than of the factors related to the economic dimension or the envisaged gains from the specific trade agreement. These results contribute towards a better comprehension of the dynamics behind the agreement’s politicization in the context of EU’s multilevel governance.
Aleksandra Sojka (@AleSojka) is a Juan de la Cierva Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Social Sciences, Carlos III University in Madrid, Spain and a Visiting Fellow at the European Institute, LSE. Previously, she has been a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for European Studies (CES) at Harvard University. Aleksandra’s teaching and research interests combine European Union politics and political sociology of regional integration, with a special focus on the effects of transnational mobility and the role of European identification.
Robert Basedow is Assistant Professor in International Political Economy at the LSE European Institute.