It’s the Economy, not European Identity: The Effect of European Identity and Economic Considerations on Public Support for EU Membership in Turkey and Central and Eastern European Countries

A. Burcu Bayram
2.226 424


Turkey has long been characterized as  “too big, too poor, too Muslim” to be a European country. This assertion permeated the political debates regarding Turkey’s accession to the Union in the early 2000s, leading to a Turkey versus the rest dichotomy: Other candidate countries are European, Turkey is not. A central dimension of this dichotomy was the juxtaposition of public attitudes toward EU membership in Turkey and Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs). A frequently evoked claim during the fifth enlargement of the Union was that the Turkish public supports EU membership due to its expected economic benefits while citizens in CEECs desire membership because they identify as European. In this article, I show that this claim was empirically false. Using data from the Eurobarometer survey for candidate countries, I statistically demonstrate that both Turks and citizens of CEECs supported EU membership for economic reasons. European identity played a negligible role in shaping mass support for EU membership in Turkey and other candidate countries alike. This study makes a central contribution to the existing literature by analyzing the relative impact of European identity and economic considerations on public support for EU membership in Turkey and CEECs. The results fill an important void in the existing scholarship and contribute to ongoing political debates on Turkey’s EU membership


European Identity, Economy, Public Support, EU membership, Turkey, CEECs

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The data and the codebook describing the questions are available for academic and public use from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at and Leibniz Institute for Social Science at

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Cronbach’s alpha is an indicator of the reliability of an index. Values closer to 1 indicate high reliability; values around 0.4-0.5 indicate moderate reliability. A value of 0 indicates lack of reliability.

Names of explanatory variables are presented in italics throughout the text.

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I use ordinary least squares regression techniques to estimate the models. Robustness checks indicate that substantive results do not change when I run alternative models or use different coding schemes.