Europeans are Highly Sceptical of EU's Role During the Pandemic

Even with general disillusionment about the EU's crisis management, a majority still wishes for more European cooperation.

EUPINIONS ECHO Europeans are Highly Sceptical of EU's Role During the Pandemic

Every week, surveys from all across the EU tell us what Europeans are thinking, feeling and talking about. In our new segment, eupinions echo, we collect these voices and play them back to you. Each week, we highlight one survey of particular interest in a short blogpost and share daily new survey results via our website and our twitter channel.


The COVID-19 pandemic has confronted the European Union with challenges of previously unknown proportions. Yet, while many Europeans regard the crisis work of their countries' governments as generally favourable, the same can not be said about the EU as a whole. A new survey of nine EU countries by the European Council on Foreign Relations shows that roughly half of EU citizens (46%) think that the EU has not lived up to its responsibilities during the pandemic, with a similar proportion (47%) going so far as to say that the EU has been irrelevant during the crisis. In contrast, only 22% of Europeans held a positive view about the EU's crisis management during the pandemic.

eupinions graphic | Source: European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, among those countries surveyed, these sentiments were most prevalent in Italy, one of the countries hit earliest and hardest by the virus. Here, a total of 63% of respondents held a negative view towards the EU’s involvement during the pandemic, while only 14% agreed with the notion that the EU had lived up to its responsibilities. Remarkably, when asked about who had been their greatest ally during the COVID-19 crisis, only 4% of Italians mentioned the EU while a full 25% answered China.

While these numbers might suggest a general disillusionment towards the European Union, this does not actually turn out to be the case. Asked about how the corona virus had changed their attitudes towards the EU, a total of 63% of EU citizens said that the crisis had shown the need for even greater European integration in order to effectively combat future European crises. This sentiment was shared by majorities across all countries involved in the survey, with most people in favour of more EU cooperation in Portugal (91%) and Spain (80%). Overall, just 20% of Europeans held the opinion that EU integration had gone too far. Our very own latest eupinions trend data (June, 2020) reports similar results. While 53% of respondents are in favour of more political and economic integration across Europe, just 28% speak out against this. Notably, this includes Italy, where a full 70% of respondents continue to be in favour of more political and economic integration across Europe – the highest number across all EU member states that we poll individually. (Note: Unlike ECFR's survey, our survey also included a "Things should remain as they are today" option, which likely explains the even more positive numbers in the ECFR survey). These results are quite telling. While many Europeans have not been convinced with the EU’s pandemic crisis management thus far, they do acknowledge the European dimension of public health crises like these. It is now up to the EU to fill this role and satisfy European citizens’ expectations.

eupinions graphic | Source: European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

Finally, the ECFR survey also looked at how the pandemic has influenced Europeans' trust in experts. While the idea that the crisis has rekindled Europeans' dwindling faith in expertise has been widely circulated in public debate, the results of the survey, unfortunately, do not support this assumption. Only 35% of European citizens view scientific expertise as beneficial for society, while 65% either don’t trust experts' findings or believe that the experts have been instrumentalized by governments to endorse their own policy choices.



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About the survey: The survey was commissioned by the European Council on Foreign Relations and conducted by YouGov and Alpha Research at the end of April. A total of 11,000 EU citizens were polled across nine countries (Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden). Pan-European figures were aggregated to reflect relative population size.