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From Polarized We/They Public Opinion on European Integration

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Towards Social Representations of Public Dialogue

Kesi Mahendran

The Open University

Social psychology has established that oppositional we/they categorization is central to dis/identification with European integration (Chryssochoou, 2000; Hewstone, 1986; Mummendey & Walduz, 2004). As Europe faces fresh uncertainties, for example, Brexit, this article reveals the multipositional features of public-opinion formation. Drawing on meta-representational approaches, it reveals how we/they categorization moves from

oppositional forms towards diplomatic nonoppositional forms when citizens speak about the general public in “a public capacity” (Dewey, 1927/1954). Two interview-led studies in England, Ireland, Germany, Scotland, and Sweden (n = 100) brought participants into dialogue with the ideals of European integration. Analysis reveals six dialogical positions on the general public—avant-garde, advocating, homesteading, distancing, segmenting, and progressive. These rest on social representations of the public as having freedom from

movement, freedom of movement, and freedom through movement. Understanding the public’s multipositional capacities and the interplay between self-world narratives and European integration narratives is one step towards depolarization and public dialogue on Europe.

Read the full article here

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