A new survey says that most people in the European Union support the EU and the euro and believe there should be more political and economic integration within Europe. At the same time, they have a critical view of EU policymaking and fear it is not developing in the right direction.
Those are some of the findings from a representative EU-wide survey called EUpinions which examines attitudes in the EU towards the Union’s ongoing development and individual policy fields. It was carried out on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung think tank.
Overall, 71 percent of the survey’s respondents say that if a referendum were held today they would vote in favor of EU membership for their country.
Of the respondents in the euro zone, 63 percent say they would vote in favor of their country continuing to use the euro.
In addition, 59 percent of the EU’s citizens feel that the Union’s political and economic integration should be increased, a figure that rises to 64 percent when the same question is posed to people living in the euro zone.
This general support does not, however, mean that people in the EU have a favorable view of recent policymaking decisions or are confident about the future. In fact, 72 percent of the respondents say that European politics is moving “in the wrong direction.”
People living in the euro zone see the situation even more critically (77 percent). These attitudes are accompanied by dissatisfaction over national politics in the 28 EU member states, with 68 percent of respondents throughout the EU saying that policymaking in their own country is on the wrong path.
The survey was carried out in July, a time when the discussion of Greece’s future and measures to save the euro was at a high point and when news reports were dominated by critical and even pessimistic views of unfolding events.
The increased media interest in European politics means that Europeans today know more about the EU and its actors than ever before. Overall, 68 percent of the survey’s respondents are well informed about the basics of EU policymaking, a figure that rises to 74 percent in the euro zone.
Key EU politicians are also better known than previously, with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, and Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, known to 40 percent of Europeans. Even 34 percent of respondents know who Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, are.
While those figures are not as high as the percentage of people who are familiar with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (83 percent), British Prime Minister David Cameron (75 percent) or French President François Hollande (63 percent), they are higher than the figures for the prime ministers of Italy and Spain, Matteo Renzi (32 percent) and Mariano Rajoy (22 percent).
According to the survey’s respondents, the key tasks facing the EU are ensuring peace and security (61 percent), ensuring economic growth (53 percent), reducing social inequality (47 percent) and addressing the issue of immigration (42 percent). The achievements the respondents appreciate most about the European Union are its open borders (46 percent), free trade (45 percent) and its having maintained peace (40 percent).
When asked about their preferences in terms of possible reforms to the Union, a large majority of Europeans say they are in favor of referenda being held in the EU. At the same time, a large majority of respondents say they do not support joint election of a president.
Moreover, EU citizens are divided about Germany’s role in European policymaking, with 55 percent saying it is “good” or “very good” that Germany takes on a leadership role. In contrast, 45 percent feel it is inappropriate for Germany to take on such a role.
Of the six largest EU member states, the highest approval levels can be found in two countries bordering Germany: Poland (67 percent) and France (65 percent). The lowest approval levels are found in Italy (29 percent) and Spain (39 percent). In comparison, 48 percent of the British say they are in favor of Germany playing a leading role within the EU.
The survey was conducted in July 2015 in all European Union member states (EU28).
It has a sample of 12,002 and is representative of the EU. It is also representative of the six largest EU member states (Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain and Poland).
The survey is the first in a series being carried out by the Bertelsmann Stiftung together with Dalia Research.
By Martin Banks