Individual benefits revisited: The impact of Intra-European mobility on determining public support for the EU
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Researchers have repeatedly found a link between individually benefitting from the European Union (EU) and supporting the EU. However, instead of measuring directly to what extent citizens benefit from European integration, most studies rely on proxy variables, assuming that educated and affluent individuals are more likely to benefit from the integration process. This article proposes to overcome the shortcomings of using proxy variables by measuring the extent to which individuals have benefitted from European integration directly. To this end, a scale is constructed that measures to what extent people have benefitted from the open borders and the open labor market within the EU since this is assumed to be the most tangible advantage the EU offers to its citizens. The results of a multilevel linear regression analysis suggest that benefitting from the right of free movement is indeed related to having a better image of the EU. Furthermore, this effect appears to be weaker in countries that benefit from fiscal redistribution in the EU. Direct benefits therefore become less important if citizens benefit indirectly by living in countries that are net recipients of the EU budget. European policy- making should therefore take into account to what extent citizens from different countries and societal segments are able to benefit from European integration.