Flags and fridges: an experimental approach to the relationship between trust and implicit attachment to the European Union
This thesis discusses an experimental approach to explore the relationship between the exposure of participants to banal visual triggers and the meaning people associate with the European Union. The study is motivated by the need for empirical contributions to the debate on public attachment to the European Union that is identified in an overview of EU integration literature. Based on an assumption of public trust in specific EU institutions and their banal manifestations, the thesis presents an experimental approach that allows for analysis of aspects of public attachment to the EU. The study describes the exposure to well-known functional cues to acquire empirical data on how the EU symbol enhances perceptions of credibility and trust. This is realised by employing the EU energy label as a visual cue in an experimental setup. This research specifically builds on contributions to the relationship between non-conscious exposure to visual primes and political attitudes on the one hand and the notion of ‘banal Europeanism’ on the other hand. The study cannot confirm clear relationships between attachment to the EU and their manifestation in banal consumer decisions as tested for in the experiments analysed. Nonetheless, it is argued that these experimental interventions can help to gain insights into people’s implicit attachment to and identification with the EU, and can thus offer meaningful contributions to European Union studies.