Power, identity, and belonging: a mixed-methods study of the processes shaping perceptions of EU integration in a prospective member state

Author(s): Sandra Obradović & Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington

Published in: European Journal of Social Psychology

Abstract: What is at stake, psychologically, when a nation considers joining a supranational body such as the European Union? This article addresses this question from the perspective of power, identity, and belonging vis‐à‐vis superordinate groups. Taking a mixed‐methods approach, using focus group ( = 67) and survey ( = 1,192) data, we explore the psychosocial dynamics that shape perceptions of European Union (EU) integration in a prospective member state, Serbia. Findings from the qualitative study highlighted the role of power imbalances in triggering concerns of compatibility in the present, and in shaping the expected consequences for national identity continuity in an EU future. The survey functioned to explore these relationships further, enabling the testing of two moderated mediation models. The first showed that perceptions of national powerlessness predicted lower perceptions that Serbia was representative of Europe, and this was associated with weaker identification as European. In the second model, perceptions of the EU as a hierarchy‐enhancing union predicted heightened fears of Serbian identity discontinuity in an EU future, which in turn had downstream consequences for support for working toward EU accession. Both indirect pathways were stronger among high national identifiers, yielding insight into when national and supranational identification can work in harmony. This mixed‐methods study sheds light on the importance of social psychological processes concerning hierarchy and groups in understanding citizens’ attitudes toward prospective large‐scale political change.

Citation: Obradović, S., & Sheehy‐Skeffington, J. Power, identity, and belonging: A mixed‐methods study of the processes shaping perceptions of EU integration in a prospective member state. European Journal of Social Psychology.

Link to article: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ejsp.2691