Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-09262018-121853

Type of thesis
Who politicises immigration and the European Union? A multilevel analysis of the position of mainstream and populist parties in Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Parliament.
Scientific disciplinary sector
SCIENZE POLITICHE - Joint PhD in Political Science, European Politics and International Relations
Membro Dott. BRESSANELLI, Edoardo
  • corpus linguistics
  • European Parliament
  • European Union
  • immigration
  • legislative arenas
  • mainstream parties
  • party competition
  • politicisation
  • populist parties
  • qualitative content analysis
Exam session start date
Political competition lies at the heart of democratic representation. Indeed, competition among parties and candidates allows voters to identify which of the alternative policy options better suit their values, and cast their vote accordingly. However, from the 1970s onward, traditional models of party competition have been unable to tackle the complexity of the political space. This thesis focuses on two of the most politicised topics in Western European politics, in particular, immigration and the European Union, to advance our understanding of the strategies used by political parties to compete on complex issues. In so doing, this thesis aims to assess: (a) By which political actors, and how, ‘immigration’ and the ‘European Union’ are mobilised as political issues in the public domain (actor comparison); (b) To what degree and how ‘immigration’ and the ‘European Union’ are linked as issues, when actors mobilise political demands, and whether this differs between key actors (issue comparison) and (c) To what extent parties’ framing strategies of ‘immigration’ and the ‘European Union’ differ between national and supranational decision-making arenas (institutional comparison). To do so, this work proposes to disentangle the issue ‘European integration’ into three analytical dimensions, comparing parties’ positioning to the very idea of the European integration (in terms of EU deepening, EU widening and EU identity), the policies enacted by the EU and its institutional architecture. Similarly, the ‘immigration’ issue is operationalised along the control vs integration dimension. The empirical analysis relies on an original dataset of 1.483 parliamentary speeches delivered from 2015 until 2018 by the representatives of the most relevant Italian and British mainstream parties - the Democratic Party (PD) and Forza Italia (FI) in Italy, the Conservative Party (CON) and the Labour Party (LAB) in the UK - and populist parties - the Northern League (LN) and the Five Star Movement (M5S) in Italy, the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) in the UK -, as well as their national delegations in the European Parliament (EP). Data are analysed using a mixed method approach that combines qualitative content analysis and corpus linguistics, in particular, keyword analysis. First, parliamentary speeches are manually coded and the resulting coding segments are used to create an aggregated index that combines the direction (positive, negative or neutral) and the character (principled or pragmatic) of a party’s opposition/support towards any of the above mentioned analytical dimensions. Second, through keywords analysis, parties’ motivations are identified and classified according to six frames categories (socio-economic, cultural-religious, moral-universal, sovranist, security and legitimacy). Overall, this study suggests that the politicisation of immigration and the European Union produces complex patterns of parties&#39; polarisation, which seem to vary according to four main factors: party ideology, policy issue, institutional settings, and practical constraints, e.g. government involvement. Most importantly, the empirical analysis reveals that the migration crisis has broadened the political contraposition between an elite-led pro-integration coalition vs a Eurosceptic sovranist coalition. In other words, Euroscepticism does not seem to be limited to populist parties. Mainstream parties are highly critical towards the effects of several European policies and sometimes they even question the identity and the constitutional design of the European Union. <br>