This study asks how do changes in national political leaders’ (NPLs) discourse about the European Union affect public support for the EU? To develop an answer to this question, the research is situated in the tradition of discourse analysis, as it is better suited to understand the nuances in the discourse being presented to the population. In the literature reviewed for this project, EU-related discourse is presented as holding particular power in affecting people’s perceptions of European issues due to the historical low engagement and knowledge levels. The lack of a shared European public sphere and international conversations on topics central to the EU leads to centering this project around how national dynamics shape the support for European integration. To analyze the correlation between political discourse and public support, this study adopts a longitudinal single case study on Italy, selecting a variety of time frames and developing an analysis of which messaging both majority and opposition leaders privilege. Public support is measured through a selection of questions from time-sensitive Eurobarometers — the commonly used source for measures of EU public support in much of the literature on EU-related topics. After careful analysis based on the case study of Italy between 1990 and 2019, this project highlights the importance of discursive agreeance amongst NPLs as a leading force in bolstering public support for the EU. In the final overview of discursive trends, this research finds a particular shift in the overall underlying messaging that relates Italy to the EU, with the latter now being presented as an obstacle to national growth rather than an opportunity for greater economic and political integration. The paper ends with an overview of the methodological limitations caused by external constraints, and suggests that future research should apply this model to a cross-country comparative case study to better gauge the actual value of political frames of discourse and their effects on public support for the EU.


Kille, Kent


Global and International Studies


International Relations


European Union, leadership, discourse analysis

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



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