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09 June, 2016

Beyond Brexit: Europeans increasingly lose their faith on Union

Survey from Pew Research Center

The survey includes countries that account for 80% of the EU-28 population and 82% of the EU’s GDP

Key points:

  • ... a new multi-nation survey from Pew Research Center finds that Euroskepticism is on the rise across Europe and that about two-thirds of both the British and the Greeks, along with significant minorities in other key nations, want some powers returned from Brussels to national governments.

  • In a number of nations the portion of the public with a favorable view of the Brussels-based institution fell markedly from 2012 to 2013 as the European economy cratered. It subsequently rebounded in 2014 and 2015. But the EU is again experiencing a sharp dip in public support in a number of its largest member states.

  • Just 27% of the Greeks, 38% of the French and 47% of the Spanish have a favorable opinion of the EU. Notably, 44% of the British view the EU favorably, including 53% of the Scottish.

  • EU favorability is down in five of the six nations surveyed in both 2015 and 2016. There has been a double-digit drop in France (down 17 percentage points) and Spain (16 points), and single-digit declines in Germany (8 points), the United Kingdom (7 points) and Italy (6 points).

  • Young people – those ages 18 to 34 – are more favorable toward the European Union than people 50 and older in six of the 10 nations surveyed. [...] In France, EU backing among those ages 50 and older fell 19 points. In Spain it declined 16 points and in Germany 11 points. In each case this was larger than the decline in support among those ages 18 to 34.

  • Europeans are divided along ideological lines in their views of the EU, but this division is not a simple matter of left versus right in each society. In some nations Euroskepticism is a right-wing issue, in others it is a left-wing cause.

  • Much of the disaffection with the EU among Europeans can be attributed to Brussels’ handling of the refugee issue. In every country surveyed, overwhelming majorities disapprove of how Brussels has dealt with the problem. This includes 94% of Greeks, 88% of Swedes and 77% of Italians. The strongest approval of EU management of the refugee crisis is in the Netherlands, but that backing is a tepid 31%.

  • The EU’s handling of economic issues is another huge source of disaffection with the institution. About nine-in-ten Greeks (92%) disapprove of how the EU has dealt with the ongoing economic crisis. Roughly two-thirds of the Italians (68%), French (66%) and Spanish (65%) similarly disapprove. (France and Spain are the two nations where the favorability of the EU has recently experienced the largest decline.) Majorities in Sweden (59%) and the UK (55%), including 84% of UKIP supporters, also disapprove of the EU’s job in dealing with economic challenges. The strongest approval of Brussels’ economic efforts is in Poland and Germany (both 47%).

  • ... there is little enthusiasm for transferring more power to Brussels. As the British head to the polls, just 6% of the public in the UK wants such an outcome. And only 8% of Greeks favor more power for the EU. The strongest backing for an ever closer Europe is only 34%, in France. In most countries a quarter or more of the public prefers to keep the current division of power.

  • There is overwhelming sentiment across Europe that Brexit would be a bad thing for the European institution: 89% in Sweden, 75% in the Netherlands and 74% in Germany say the British leaving would be not good for the EU. France is the only country where more than a quarter (32%) of the public says it would be positive for the EU if the UK departed.

Full report:

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