When the euro crisis hit Europe, so did recurring claims of an 'unprecedented' politicization of European integration charcterized by increased attention to the EU in the media and claims of rising euroscepticism among EU citizens. These are characteristic of the media-based analyses that dominate politicization research. This dissertation disputes the generalizability of these claims from the media to lay citizens and to other political arenas. It argues than an approach that differentiates between the various dimensions of politicization (i.e. salience, scope and contestation) and between the various arenas on which it plays out (i.e. institutional, intermediary and citizen) is necessary for an accurate understanding of the character and development of politicization. Through a mixed-methods quantitative-qualitative analysis that applies equivalent indicators longitudinally over parallel time periods, it investigates how the politicization of the EU compares between media debates and citizen discourse. It then maps how it evolved comparatively between them over the duration of the crisis.
Politicization in the Irish news media, observed through media content analysis of the Irish Times and the Irish Independent in chapter 4, is then compared with that among Irish citizens, observed through focus group discussions and Eurobarometer surveys in chapter 5. This dissertation finds that contrary to claims of an 'unprecedented' degree of politicization, politicization of the EU in the Irish news media during the crisis can be characterized as a moderately salient, deep, moderately euro-critical polarization that is becoming somewhat wider in scope over time with no consistent trend in either the salience or contestation of EU politics. In contrast, in the citizen arena it was characterized as a week to moderately salient, wide, moderately polarized politicization that is slowly progressing in a wider but not deeper euro-critical direction. It finds that even where the intensity of politicization does not change over time, there can still be significant changes to the character of politicization in any one or more of its three dimensions