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Harald Oberhofer

Video Harald Oberhofer

Harald Oberhofer

Researcher of the Month

EU re­gional fund­ing in­flu­ences vot­ing be­ha­vior

In 2017 alone, the EU spent around € 53.5 bil­lion on fund­ing for European re­gions. These funds are in­ten­ded to strengthen the re­gions’ econom­ies and cre­ate jobs. A cur­rent study con­duc­ted by WU Pro­fessor Har­ald Ober­hofer and re­searcher Ju­lia Bachtrögler has shown that EU fund­ing has an in­flu­ence on in­hab­it­ants’ vot­ing be­ha­vior. Based on the res­ults of the 2017 pres­id­en­tial elec­tions in France, the re­search­ers were able to demon­strate that those re­gions that be­nefited most from EU fund­ing ac­tu­ally do vote in a more pro-European dir­ec­tion.

The EU’s re­gional policy fund­ing pro­grams, which are the second largest item in the entire EU budget, are in­ten­ded to help eco­nom­ic­ally dis­ad­vant­aged re­gions in the EU catch up to their more pros­per­ous coun­ter­parts and be­come more com­pet­it­ive in today’s glob­al­ized economy. In Aus­tria, Bur­gen­land alone re­ceived close to € 1 bil­lion in EU fund­ing between 1995 and 2006. Har­ald Ober­hofer, pro­fessor at WU’s In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Eco­nom­ics, in co­oper­a­tion with Ju­lia Bachtrögler from the Aus­trian In­sti­tute of Eco­nomic Re­search, has in­vestig­ated to what ex­tent these pro­grams af­fect voter be­ha­vior in the sub­sid­ized re­gions. The study fo­cused mainly on the ques­tion of whether people in heav­ily sub­sid­ized re­gions showed a stronger pro-European vot­ing be­ha­vior. Har­ald Ober­hofer and his co-au­thor used the 2017 French pres­id­en­tial elec­tions as the basis for their in­vest­ig­a­tion.


Em­ploy­ment growth strengthens pro-European at­ti­tudes

First, the study ana­lyzed cor­por­ate data on pro­ject fund­ing from the mul­tian­nual fin­an­cial frame­work 2007–2013 in order to evalu­ate if pro­ject fund­ing led to in­creased em­ploy­ment in the re­gion’s com­pan­ies. “This al­lows us to de­termine if EU policies ac­tu­ally do im­prove the eco­nomic situ­ation of these re­gions,” says Ober­hofer. Con­trary to the res­ults of pre­vi­ous stud­ies, the find­ings in­dic­ated that EU fund­ing led to sig­ni­fic­ant im­prove­ments in the em­ploy­ment situ­ation in eight out of 21 sub­sid­ized re­gions. In the next step, this in­form­a­tion was com­pared to re­gional vot­ing pat­terns in France. The ana­lysis showed that re­gions that be­nefited the most from EU fund­ing ac­tu­ally did vote for the more pro-European can­did­ate, i.e. for Em­manuel Mac­ron. This ap­plied par­tic­u­larly to those re­gions where EU policies cre­ated new jobs. Con­versely, in re­gions that be­nefited less from EU policies, more cit­izens voted for the Eur­o­scep­tic can­did­ate Mar­ine Le Pen. “In num­bers, this means that 1% em­ploy­ment growth due to EU policies re­duced the per­cent­age of Le Pen voters by 0.2% and in­creased votes for Mac­ron by up to 0.1%.”

Cus­tom­ized fund­ing

“These res­ults show clearly that pro-European politi­cians are viewed more pos­it­ively by voters when EU policies have im­proved the eco­nomic situ­ation in voters’ im­me­di­ate area. This em­phas­izes the im­port­ance of en­sur­ing that EU fund­ing is cus­tom tailored to meet the needs of each in­di­vidual re­gion and is reg­u­larly evalu­ated to make sure that it is still work­ing as in­ten­ded,” says Ober­hofer.




About the study

The study con­duc­ted by WU Pro­fessor Har­ald Ober­hofer and Ju­lia Bachtrögler (at the time a doc­toral can­did­ate at WU) ana­lyzes the ef­fect­ive­ness of EU re­gional fund­ing on re­gional eco­nomic and em­ploy­ment devel­op­ment and on re­gional vot­ing be­ha­vior. A de­scrip­tion of the data­base of EU funds used for the study is avail­able on­line at The cal­cu­la­tion of the ef­fect­ive­ness of EU re­gional fund­ing was based on an ana­lysis of ap­prox­im­ately 1,400 French com­pan­ies that re­ceived EU fund­ing and over 12,000 com­pan­ies that did not re­ceive any fund­ing. Cit­izens’ vot­ing be­ha­vior in the 2017 French pres­id­en­tial elec­tions was in­vestig­ated for both the first round and the run­off elec­tion between Em­manuel Mac­ron and Mar­ine Le Pen.