Saturday

24th Jun 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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

Security and defence to top EU summit

Pressure is mounting for social media platforms to remove any online content deemed to incite terrorism. Draft conclusions, seen by EUobserver, have made the issue a top priority in leaders' talks next week.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Social Services ConferenceDriving Innovation in the Social Sector I 26-28 June
  2. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  3. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  5. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  6. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  11. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement