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25th Feb 2024

No clear 'Qatargate effect' — but only half voters aware of EU election

  • Interest in the 2024 European election is at 56 percent among citizens - — higher than at the same point before the 2019 contest (Photo: Unsplash)
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The so-called Qatargate corruption allegations have had little effect on the image of the European Parliament so far, officials said on Tuesday (6 June) after the publication of a survey by Eurobarometer ahead of the EU elections next year.

Jaume Duch Guillot, the spokesperson of the parliament told reporters on Tuesday (6 June), that "if you look at the figures, you don't see the Qatargate effect", referring to the alleged bribery scandal rocking the institution since last December.

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The survey, done by Kantar, did not specifically ask people about the scandal. Pollsters inquired about the image of the parliament, its role, and its trust in the institutions.

Nevertheless, according to the research, 54 percent of respondents are satisfied with the way democracy works in the EU.

Interest in the European Parliament elections is at 56 percent among citizens — but only 45 percent are aware they are happening next year, according to the survey by the EU's public opinion office.

The interest is six percentage points higher than one year before the last European elections in 2019, for which parliament officials credit the higher visibility of the EU due to Brexit, Covid, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Two-thirds of citizens (67 percent) say they are likely to vote if they were to be held next week, while 58 percent said so in 2018, a year before the previous election, and 71 percent of citizens acknowledge the impact the EU has on their daily lives.

However, only 45 percent of respondents know that there will be an election at the European level sometime next year. It is scheduled to take place on 6-9 June 2024.

"The closer the elections, the more and more people will be interested, and the more people will know. It is not surprising one year or two years before the elections, 50 or more than 50 percent of people know already that elections are coming," Jaume Duch Guillot said.

He said there is a positive trend compared to four and five years ago, an increase in the visibility of the EU in the past four years.

The positive image of the EU is largely the same as before the 2019 election, around 45 percent, despite having a peak of 52 percent last year during April and May, after Russia's attack against Ukraine, according to the poll commissioned by the parliament.

The image of the parliament also remained stable with 43 percent having a neutral image, 37 percent having a positive image, and 19 percent having a negative image.

However, when asked if they want to see the parliament play a more important role or a less important role, there has been a decrease of people who want a more important role for the assembly — from 63 percent (in 2020) to 54 percent currently.

More respondents in Slovakia, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Austria, and Bulgaria want less of a role for the parliament.

Those who want less of a role for the parliament has been stable at around 27-29 percent across the EU.

Cost of living

Expectations about doing something about the cost of living crisis seem to be on the rise.

This time citizens seem to want the European Parliament to put the "fight against poverty and social exclusion" in first place, according to 38 percent of respondents. The second priority is public health (33 percent), action against climate change (31 percent), and support to the economy, and the creation of new jobs (31 percent).

Half of the respondents (50 percent) see a decline in their standard of living and expect this to carry on over the next year, according to the survey, while another 29 percent have not yet experienced such a reduction but expecting it to happen over the next year.

Most respondents (65 percent) say they are not satisfied with the measures taken by their own country to tackle the cost of living crisis, and 57 percent are not satisfied with what the EU has done to alleviate the situation.

A clear majority, 61 percent, of the respondents say that the overall situation is heading in the wrong direction.

As expectations seem to be on the rise with what the EU can do, the parliament has been engaged in trying to carve out more roles for itself, resembling more a national parliament.

It seeks to secure the right to propose legislation, which now lies with the EU Commission, and also wants to, through its lead candidate (the so-called Spitzenkandidat procedure), have an increased influence on who will the commission president be.

But so far, none of those classic national elements have been secured by the European parliament. Turnout of the 2019 elections was overall 50.66 percent, higher than the three previous elections before.

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