Every week, surveys from all across the EU tell us what Europeans are thinking, feeling and talking about. In our 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.
Ever since the threat of COVID-19 developed into a world-wide pandemic in February and March, pollsters around the globe have been busy, constantly designing new surveys to gage the sentiments among the population regarding the various aspects of the crisis and to measure how those sentiments changed over time. We have written about several such aspects of the crisis on this blog in the past, such as the European's perception of EU crisis management, the Italian's economic worries caused by COVID or the French peoples' waning trust in their government's corona actions. Now a new survey has been released by the British NGO More in Common, which aims to be as comprehensive as possible in covering all those various corona-crisis related issues. Partnering with Kantar and YouGov, More in Common surveyed people from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and the United States about their thoughts and feelings on the crisis and its consequences.
The crisis has worsened people’s physical and mental health but also made them feel more connected
Before exploring national perceptions and opinions on future developments, the new survey starts by taking a look at how the pandemic has affected people on a personal and interpersonal level. The answers reveal a number of negative trends, but also some positive ones.
On the one hand, there is clear evidence for the direct negative impact that COVID-19 virus has had on many Europeans’ lives, both health-wise and economically. Across all countries surveyed, more people reported a decline in mental health than in physical health. Polish respondents were the most affected in this regard, with more than a third of the population (37%) reporting that their mental health had worsened as a result of the crisis. People felt less affected in the Netherlands with only about a fifth of people reporting a decline in their mental (20%) or physical health (17%). Economically, even more people felt the impact of COVID-19 with nearly half of people surveyed in Italy (48%) and Poland (45%) stating that their personal financial situation had worsened because of the pandemic.
On the other hand, the crisis also seems to have fostered some positive sentiments in European citizens. Across the European countries surveyed, an average of 58% of people agreed with the statement that "the COVID-19 pandemic had made them more aware of the living conditions of other people in their country" and 77% agreed that "the COVID-19 crisis had reminded them that no matter where we are from, as humans we are fundamentally the same". Additionally, more people believed that the crisis had improved people's concern for others, than believed that it had worsened. This believe was particularly prevalent among UK citizens, where a majority of 53% of respondents believed mutual concern had improved while only 9% thought it had worsened.
Nationally, only two European countries feel pride in how their governments handled the crisis
When it comes to national perceptions, the results of the study vary considerably across countries. In the UK, US, France and Poland, people tend to feel highly disappointed about their government's crisis management, whereas only respondents from Germany and the Netherlands feel greater levels of pride in how their countries and governments have handled the situation.
The national analysis also took a deeper look at how people perceived the information handling surrounding the pandemic. We have written before about the vital significance of transparency and the populist threat of misinformation and conspiracy theories and those worries are again reflected in these new results. About half of all countries' respondents believed that "the government knows things about COVID-19 that it is hiding from the public" with results ranging from 45% in Germany to 63% in Poland. Even more people believed that "the media seem to be pursuing their own agenda rather than simply reporting the facts". Here, Germany (49%) was the only country where less than half of the people believed in this statement, while clear majorities in all other countries held that believe (up to 75% in the case of the UK). Perhaps most worryingly, however, was the finding that absolute majorities in all European countries surveyed agreed with the statement that "to put our country in order, we need a strong leader who is willing to break the rules". Even in Germany, 55% of respondents agreed with this, while a full 78% of the French did so, too.
Coming out of the crisis, people are hungry for change but sceptical about things changing
Finally, the More in Common survey also polled people's thoughts and perceptions about the time after COVID-19. Here, again, the results of the survey are rather bleak. Absolute majorities in all countries surveyed are worried that coming out of the crisis "their country will become less politically stable", "citizens' freedoms will be permanently limited or reduced", "their country will become further divided" and that "the economy will enter a severe depression". Asked about what should be the greatest priorities coming out of the crisis, "improving our health system", "reducing unemployment" and "protecting climate and the environment" topped the list for people across all countries surveyed. Consequently, there are large majorities in all countries supporting both a "Green New Deal" (59% approval in Germany up to 77% in Italy) as well as policies aimed to bring back jobs from overseas (71% in Poland up to 84% in Italy).
However, while large parts of the European population want to seize this opportunity to make important changes in their respective countries (an opinion most firmly held in those countries hardest hit by the virus), only relatively few believe that significant change will actually be achieved. 70% of French people stated that they doubted that "much will change in our country after the pandemic is over".
Regarding the EU level, more people across Europe believed that the EU’s role in the future would become more rather than less important. Majorities in all countries surveyed agreed that more European, and international, cooperation was the best way out of this crisis and the best way to handle future crises. As a result, it is once again in the EU’s hands to live up to the expectations that its citizens continue to have in it. And indeed, despite some initial lethargy to come up with a coordinated and comprehensive EU-wide response, we are now beginning to see some significant progress such as the recently agreed upon €750 billion recovery fund or the introduction of the EU-wide short-term work instrument SURE.
If you liked this instalment of eupinions Echo, you might also be interested in these reads:
- Fear not Values
Public opinion and the populist vote in Europe
- Danes most satisfied with their government's corona response but sceptical about international cooperation
While most Europeans are happy with their country's crisis management, many see more division now than before the crisis
- eupinions echo Data Feed
All European Opinions, Always Up-To-Date
About the surveys: More in Common partnered with Kantar and YouGov to interview around 2,000 respondents each in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and the United States between June 19th and June 22nd, 2020.