This survey on elections and democracy in the EU, conducted by the European Commission's DG Justice and Consumers, could hardly be more relevant. Ever more European citizens – see the Yellow Vests in France, the 2014-2016 Pegida demonstrations in Germany, among other examples – are questioning democratically sanctioned governments and even liberal democracy itself (see Italy and Hungary.) Many European experts and politicians, not just nationalists, are critical of the EU’s democracy, which is central to its raison d'être.

The survey examined citizens’ opinions and concerns about voting and elections, as well as their satisfaction with various aspects of democracy, in the EU institutions and in their home member states. (It includes clear and user-freindly statistical breakdowns and graphs for every member states’ result, in both English and the native language.) Very interesting: the factors most likely to increase the likelihood to vote in the uppcoming European Parliament election in May are: being better informed about the EU and its impact on their daily life (43%); having more young people stand as candidates (31%); and having more women candidates (20%).

There is serious alarm about a number of kinds of potential electoral interferences: cyberattacks (61%), foreign actors and criminal groups influencing elections (59%), election manipulation (56%), and votes being bought or sold (55%). Nevertheless, according to the pollsters, most expressed that their country is "doing enough to prevent illegal and fraudulent activities during elections."

As for the use of the Internet in the pre-election period, a large majority of respondents expressed unease about disinformation and misinformation online. A decisive majority agreed that the rules that "traditional media have to observe during the pre-election period should also apply to online social networks, Internet platforms, and actors using them." Eight in ten were in favour of "online social networks and other Internet platforms making clear the amount of money they receive from political parties and campaign groups and about the support they themselves provide to these political parties and campaign groups."

Most respondents were satisfied with most aspects of democracy in Europe,and shared the view that civil society has an important role in promoting and protecting democracy and common values. Seven in ten were satisfied with free and fair elections, while nearly seven in ten were satisfied with freedom of speech, respect for fundamental rights, and the possibility for individual citizens to participate in political life (63%). More than half were satisfied with media diversity (58%), the opportunity for civil society to play its role in promoting and protecting democracy (57%) and the rule of law (57%).

Only a minority of respondents, says DG Justice and Consumers, were satisfied with the fight against corruption (36%), with the fight against disinformation in the media (40%), and with the extent to which political parties take the interests of people like them into account (44%). More than three quarters of respondents shared the view that civil society has an important role in promoting and protecting democracy and common values. 32% considered that the role of civil society in this area is as "very important."

The poll found that the for 74% of EU citizens the right to vote in national elections of their country of origin, even if they live in another EU country, is important to them.


(Text author: Paul Hockenos)