Research event

From Rhetoric to Voting: The Role of Public Opinion in International Negotiations

A presentation by Christopher Wratil (UCL). This event is part of the European Governance Colloquium.


How do governments respond to, engage with and use public opinion when they negotiate at the international level? Drawing on a novel database of video recordings of public deliberations as well as voting records of national governments in the Council of the European Union, we present the most comprehensive analysis of the role public opinion plays in international negotiations to date. We argue that Council politics nowadays is characterised by a divide between a "core" of governments composed of Europhile parties and some "challenger'' governments dominated by Eurosceptic parties, deriving several hypotheses about how public opinion influences each type of government and how each type uses public opinion in their rhetorical and voting behaviour during negotiations. Our analyses demonstrate that Europhile as well as Eurosceptic governments are more willing to endorse compromises during negotiations when domestic public opinion is favourable towards the EU. In turn, especially Europhile governments use delay tactics to postpone agreement when they are cross-pressured by anti-EU opinion at home. We also show that Eurosceptic governments use explicit references to the public and to voters if these share their anti-EU position to strengthen their hand vis-à-vis negotiation partners. At the voting stage, only Eurosceptic governments are responsive to public opinion, while a "culture of consenus'' prevails among the Europhile core. These findings support, refine and challenge various conjectures about intergovernmental negotiations in the EU.

Authors: Christopher Wratil, Jens Wäckerle, Sven-Oliver Proksch


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