18th Apr 2021

Religion and homosexuality divide Europeans

The idea of a single set of "European values" was thrown into doubt on Monday (18 December) as a fresh Eurobarometer poll exposed strongly varying attitudes towards delicate issues such as religion, homosexuality and drug use across the EU.

The survey, conducted for the European Commission, for the first time quizzed Europeans about some key societal issues which are closely related to national histories and cultures.

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The study revealed a huge rift in attitudes towards homosexuality, with the Dutch (82%) followed by the Swedes and the Danes (71% and 69%) strongly in favour of allowing gay marriages in the whole EU, while only 12 percent of Latvians and equally small percentages of Poles (17%) and Greeks (15%) said they back the idea.

Adoption by gays of children is even more controversial and is okayed by only one third of EU citizens – with the Dutch (69%) and the Swedes (51%) again giving most pro-gay answers.

But North Western Europe itself is divided on the legalisation of cannabis, with Sweden among those countries showing least support for EU legalisation (9%) while the Dutch (49%), who already have liberal legislation on the issue, are the most interested in the idea.

Meanwhile, Europeans also disagree about the place of religion in society. Large numbers of Cypriots (81%), Maltese (70%) and Italians (63%) say that religion takes up a "too important" role in society – but at the other end of the scale, only 20 percent of Estonians and Bulgarians believe so.

Limits to freedom and tolerance

When confronted with the almost philosophical dilemma of equality versus individual freedom, important majorities of Portuguese (80%), Hungarians (74%) and Italians – as well as an average of around two thirds of EU citizens as a whole – favour the idea that "we need more equality and justice even if this means less freedom for the individual."

Nordic and Dutch people however showed less appetite for this trade-off, with around one half rejecting the idea of giving away freedoms.

The Eurobarometer – for which a total of 29,152 people were interviewed – also shows one notable point where Europeans all want the same thing - a tougher clampdown on crime.

Support for the assertion that "criminals should be punished more severely" ran from 70 percent in Denmark to as high as 97 percent in Cyprus.

EU constitution surprise

Monday's Eurobarometer also includes some more regular questions – such as on people's view towards the shelved EU constitution.

The survey surprisingly shows that citizens in France and the Netherlands, who last year rejected the charter, now support it.

Fifty six percent of the French and 59 percent of the Dutch said they are "in favour" of the EU constitution – a figure which appears to contrast with recent data from other surveys in both countries which suggest the opposite.

A survey for the French paper Liberation released last May one year after the referendum said that 98 percent "do not regret" their choice (54.7 percent of the French electorate voted against the charter).

A November poll by Dutch pollster Maurice de Hond said 64 percent of Dutch voters would say "no" to the constitution if asked to vote in a referendum again.

The latest poll by Mr de Hond released on Friday (15 December) however reveals that 59 percent of the Dutch could imagine voting in favour of another version of the EU constitution, with the pollster concluding that most Dutch people agree with the general idea a constitution for Europe.

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