In 2003 nearly 70 percent of the inhabitants of Kobyla Góra municipality in West Central Poland voted to support Polish membership in the European Union in the national referendum. The town and the villages in the municipality overwhelmingly said “yes” and thus helped pave the way for the country’s integration with Western Europe. Yet among the deluge of enthusiastic supporters, three neighboring villages stood out. They were the only units in the municipality where the majority of voters opposed EU membership. Why did the majority of people in villages of Ignaców, Parzynów, and Mostki become Euroskeptic despite living in a predominantly pro-EU municipality and county? More generally, how do we explain the emergence and diffusion of divergent attitudes towards European integration in economically and culturally similar regions? This chapter is a micro-level exploration of the unexpected rise of Euroskeptic attitudes in three villages in a strongly pro-EU municipality in Poland. I argue that existing approaches to studying attitude formation on the EU are insufficient in explaining this puzzle because they assume that economically and culturally similar units should vote in a similar manner. Specifically, I rely on in-depth interviews with village inhabitants and on observations of interactions between the leader of the largest Euroskeptic village and village inhabitants to examine the impact of social connections in shaping attitudes on the EU. The chapter’s major goal is to delve deeper into the process of persuasion that I outlined in Chapter 3 and to illustrate the causal connection between political conversations and attitude formation. In Chapter 4 I showed that the biggest challenge for local opinion leaders is to push people away from the mainstream view once a specific consensus on the policy begins to emerge at the national level. This is because people who are exposed to information about the EU from the media and national elites may be aware of the emerging pro-integrationist norm in the country, even if they have not yet formed their views on the policy. Given today’s information revolution and the salience of EU

membership as a policy, it is highly unlikely that Polish people would have remained insulated from news about the EU. Consequently, opinion leaders opposed to integration must consider how to encourage people to disregard popular opinions in favor of a radically different view of integration. My argument in this chapter is that using persuasive learning during social discussions is critical in shaping people’s Euroskeptic views because such views contradict popular opinion on the EU. In other words, it may be easier for a pro-EU opinion leader to use basic facts to convince someone to support the EU than for an anti-EU opinion leader to do the same and hope that their conversation partner will enthusiastically embrace the Euroskeptic cause. After all, EU supporters have the advantage of proposing ideas that are already part of national discussions. The second part of the argument is that diffusion of unpopular views to larger groups and communities will be affected by the shared norms and understanding that begins to legitimize such views locally. It is one thing to encourage one person to oppose the EU, and quite another to ensure the spread of Euroskepticism. To move beyond interpersonal influence it is important to understand how shared norms take root. I argue that local opinion leaders with extensive and strategic connections in the community are well positioned to initiate the trend of adopting specific political views and to communicate to others the popularity of the views in their communities.