The most recent EU-commissioned public opinion poll underlines vigorous – even record-breaking, in some fields -- support for the EU across Europe. The European Parliament's Spring 2019 Eurobarometer shows that, despite the controversial challenges confronting the EU, the Union’s sense of cohesion has not been diminished -- but rather strengthened in the face of the crises and criticism.
The survey’s fieldwork was conducted in late February and early March 2019 among 27,973 Europeans in 27 member states. Britain’s results were not included in the aggregate totals, but has its own section in the report.
The encouraging numbers for the EU are based on the robust conviction (nearly 70%) that EU countries have benefited from membership. This is the highest approval rating since 1983, note EP spokespeople. Moreover, nearly two-thirds said their country's membership is "a good thing," which equals a record set six months ago and was previously, according to EU polling, only in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The feelings of insecurity so dominant in recent years appears to have subsided. 27% of Europeans say the EU today is "neither a good nor a bad thing," a figure that increased in 19 of the 27 countries compared to 2014, when the last election was held. Also, 50% of EU respondents believe that things are not going in the right direction in either the EU or their own country. Despite that, 51% of respondents say that their voice counts in the EU.
But there’s somber take-aways from the poll, too. Only a third of Europeans knew that the vote would happen in May and only 5% could say exactly when. About a third of respondents are almost certainly voting, they said, while another third remain undecided. The poll’s authors argue that “the [May] ballot faces the challenge of a more than ever scattered public opinion and a still quite elevate level of undecidedness among potential voters.”
The topics that interest EU voters most are topped by economy and growth (50%), followed by youth unemployment (49%), immigration (44%), and climate change (43%). The fight against terrorism has fallen to fifth place at just 41%. Moreover, 54% want the role of the European Parliament strengthened in order to tackle such cross-border issues.
Combating climate change and protecting the environment is the first key topic in seven member states, as well as the absolute priority for citizens who are certain to vote in the election. There were increases in the topic’s importance in all but four member states. Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland are the leader countries on the topic with respect to citizens’ interest while Portugal registered the biggest increase: by 21% since September 2018.
According to the report: “The findings confirm that the theme is generally more important for younger generations as well as for the most educated Europeans. Within socio-professional categories, 58% of the managers see it as one of the key topics to be debated during this campaign and one in two students list it among the most pressing issues.”
44% of those polled said they were voting in the European elections because "it is their duty" as a citizen. This was followed by the following rationale: they usually vote in political elections; they feel they are citizens of the EU; they believe they can change things by voting in the EP elections; and because they want to support the EU or a political party.
[Text: Paul Hockenos]