Do International Threats Work? EU Membership in the Cases of Catalonia and Scotland
What explains citizen’s support for secession? Is the desire to create an independent state exclusively grounded on domestic considerations or are international factors also important? The conventional wisdom is that support for the creation of a new sovereign state is the function of ethnic or national identity. This paper is interested in examining whether changes in the international context can affect the relationship between nationalism and secession. More specifically, we are interested in examining whether different scenarios about EU membership (e.g., inclusion or exclusion) can influence citizens’ preferences for separation from the host state. In order to examine the impact of international factors, we carry out an original survey experiment (n=2,408) that provides a robust test of the effectiveness of international sanctions and incentives. Our findings show that ‘EU membership’ matters to respondents, especially when it can drastically reduce the transaction costs of secession. Results also show that, overall, the effect of our treatments was stronger on individuals with shared identities than on voters with exclusive identities.