There is little causal evidence about deep-rooted sources of support for shifting power from nation-states to international organizations. Focusing on the European Union, this paper develops the hypothesis that citizens appreciate the role of international organizations in constraining member-states the more, the more negatively their region was historically affected by the actions of nation-states. For identification, I use the historically homogeneous regions of Alsace and Lorraine in France as a natural experiment. A municipal level geographical regression discontinuity design documents that more negative exposure led to persistently higher EU support in three important referenda and less success of Eurosceptic parties in parliamentary elections. This effect is not driven by linguistic differences, migration, socioeconomic factors or public good provision, but linked to a stronger European identity. This stronger identity is neither explained by perceived economic benefits, nor comes at the expense of a weaker national or regional identity.
Kai Gehring is a senior researcher from the University of Zurich. His research is at the intersection between economics and political science, broadly in the area of international relations and comparative politics. He is interested in international organizations and development, with a particular focus on political economy and using psychological and historical factors to explain current political and economic decisions. Another focus of his work in recent years are the origins and consequences of group identities and inequalities in resource distribution, and how they affect state stability and conflict. Kai is visiting scholar at Stanford University political science department until December 20th