Friday

20th Oct 2017

Analysis

Survey spotlights pro-EU Brits, anti-EU Italians

  • The next generation of EU enthusiasts? Youth event in EU parliament (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The good news was that over 50 percent of Europeans had a favourable view of the EU. The bad news that most Europeans still think that the EU is remote, doesn't listen and is inefficient.

That, at least, was how most media reported the publication of a poll which surveyed 7,000 people from the EU's six largest countries and Greece by the Washington-based think tank Pew Research.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Presenting his survey's findings to European Parliament officials on Tuesday (13 May) Bruce Stokes, director at the Pew Research Centre, opined that the "people are seeing light at the end of the tunnel". But the numbers are far more interesting when you look beyond the 6 percent bump in support for the EU.

The most pro-European sentiments were found in Poland and Germany. Poles were the only ones to have a favourable view of each of the EU's institutions – even having the most generous feelings towards the European Central Bank despite not being a member of the eurozone.

Meanwhile, two other themes run throughout the data. Firstly, that increasing optimism about their country's economic prospects correlates with a more favourable perception of the EU; and, second, that young people are far more pro-European than their parents and grandparents.

But aside from that, the main messages that leaps out from the data are that Italians are becoming one of the most EU-sceptic countries in the bloc, and that, despite the rise in support for the anti-EU UK Independence party, Britons are becoming increasingly pro-European.

"In terms of public opinion Italy is the problem child of Europe," says Stokes, pointing to data indicating that half of the Italian public has a negative opinion of the EU.

Although public disillusionment with EU (and national) politics remains very high in Greece, Stokes believes that it is Italy that is seeing "a real down-swing". Nearly three-quarters of Italians say that their country has been weakened by EU integration.

For the first time, Italy is on the verge of having a majority in favour of their country leaving the euro and returning to the lira, with the figures currently split by 45 to 44 percent.

Stokes argues that support for ditching the euro, which has increased by 19 percent from last year's survey, is particularly popular in southern Italy, which he attributes to "an emotional nostalgia".

With Italy still in great economic difficulty – fully 96 percent agreed that their economy was in bad shape – and likely to have to battle through years of painful structural reforms, public support for Brussels may be sorely tested in the near future.

In contrast, after six years of economic recession followed by stagnation, the UK economy is finally enjoying a robust return to health.

The Paris-based club, the OECD, has predicted that its economy will grow by more than 3 percent in 2014, by far the fastest rate of any major EU country. As a result, economic confidence has soared by more than 20 percent according to the survey.

Just as significant, considering that the UK could be three years away from an 'in/out' referendum, is that this is matched with a more positive view of the EU.

Fifty two percent said that they had a "favourable view" of the EU, while 41 percent agreed that European economic integration had been good for the UK economy, up 15 percent from last year. Meanwhile, by 50 percent to 41 percent, Brits want to stay in the EU.

But most heartening for the UK's would-be Yes campaigners, is the statistic that 63 percent of 18-29 year olds would vote to stay in the EU. If accurate, the only challenge will be persuading them, traditionally the demographic with the lowest turnout rate at elections, to use their vote.

This spike in the EU's approval ratings amongst under 30s, which is reflected in all other countries apart from Italy, is probably the statistic that will most be eagerly received by the EU's 'sultans of spin' who have spent millions on advertising in a bid to woo young people to the ballot box.

"What I find most heartening is that young people still believe in the traditional European ideal," says Stokes.

Surveys and opinion polls are always pored over by political professionals desperate to read some greater meaning into the data. What does it mean for next week's elections, which are expected to see a surge in support for anti-establishment and eurosceptic parties across Europe?

Stokes thinks that voter turnout will see a modest rise next week but sounds a more upbeat, if macabre, note about the bloc's prospects "if people have the patience to let Europe mature".

"At some point, all those over 50's are going to die," he quips, to be replaced by a more EU-friendly generation. Fair enough. But politicians need to give those under 30s a reason to go and vote.

Poll shows UK support for EU at 20-year high

The rise of the UK Independence party has coincided with increased support for Britain remaining part of the EU, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

Tusk summits to create new-model EU

Tusk has proposed a series of 13 top-level talks to take forward European reform, but his backing for a multi-speed Europe risks deepening divide.

Catalonia to declare independence in a few days

Spain's king, Felipe VI, said Catalonia's leaders were breaking up the country's unity as hundreds of thousands of Catalans rallied against police violence at Sunday's referendum.

Focus

Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020

A committee resolution said the proposal to renew the glyphosate permit for a decade "fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment".

News in Brief

  1. Dutch PM: Brexit is 'still a bad idea'
  2. Commission to issue proposal on civil protection
  3. Tusk: 'No space' for EU intervention in Catalonia
  4. Austrian PM calls Brexit talks speed 'big disappointment'
  5. PM Muscat: journalist murder 'left a mark' on Malta
  6. Belgian PM: No crisis with Spain over Catalan remarks
  7. Ireland PM: Further Brexit concessions needed from UK
  8. Merkel: rule of law in Turkey going 'in wrong direction'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC Applauds the Bulgarian Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  2. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  3. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  6. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  7. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  8. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  9. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  10. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  11. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  2. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  3. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  4. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  5. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  9. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Support Start-Ups
  11. ILGA EuropeInternational Attention Must Focus on LGBTI People in Azerbaijan After Police Raids
  12. European Jewish CongressStrong Results of Far Right AfD Party a Great Concern for Germans and European Jews