With the European Parliament (EP) election quickly approaching (May 23-26), a new poll conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a  pan-European think tank, found that issues such as unemployment, health, corruption, living standards, and housing are of more or equal importance to migration for Europeans. Climate change proved to be a major issue: in 13 of the 14 polled member states majorities were for greater protections for the environment – even if it negatively impacted economic growth.

Immigration is also a pressing issue but is not always among the two dominant subjects for voters in the polled member states. On the contrary, voters mostly view domestic issues as their key concern.

The survey was carried out by YouGov, a global public opinion and data company, in 14 EU member states. The results, according to ECFR, challenge the conclusion that the EP elections will be fought first and foremost on the issue of migration. In fact, Western European voters are mostly supportive of the refugee resettlement programs in their countries at the moment. Voters in Italy, Poland, Romania, and Spain are more concerned about people emigrating from their countries rather than entering it. In Spain and Italy, unemployment, rather than immigration, is a primary issue for voters; almost half of those polled in each country say it is their chief concern.

According to ECFR, the survey shows that despite strong anti-immigration rhetoric from administrations in Hungary and Poland, only 19% and 7% of voters in each country identify immigration as a chief issue.

The pollsters concluded that across Europe Islamic radicalism is widely identified as the single-biggest threat to the future of Europe. Moreover, there are majorities, in every member state, who want to see better protection of Europe’s borders: with people in Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Romania most concerned. Austria, Denmark, Germany and Sweden identified immigration as a particularly problematic issue.

Health, housing, unemployment, and living costs are standout issues in the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Romania. In Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain, voters are more concerned by emigration than immigration. There is a general consensus, in Western Europe, that refugees should be more fairly distributed across member states; the key countries affected by the 2015 migration crisis, such as Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Sweden, see this particularly so. Just 21% of French voters see immigration as a key issue for their country.

Corruption is cited as a major domestic issue in Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, and Romania.

The survey also found that:

  • Voters in every member state, with the exception of Denmark and Sweden, say that big business is taking advantage of ordinary working people.
  • In every member state, with the exception of Denmark and Germany, voters don’t believe that their economy is performing well.
  • Greeks, Hungarians, Romanians, Slovakians and Spaniards are most pessimistic about their national economies.

The survey is available through David Yorath, Apollo Communications, on E: david.yorath@apollostrategicomms.com / T: +44 (0) 7511467771