New studies suggest popular support for the EU is increasing again
New studies suggest that support for the EU has grown in several countries since the British vote to leave the EU.
Two separate studies, one by the Pew Research Center (in the USA and UK) and by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (in Germany) have found that popular support for the EU and its institutions and policies have increased.
The Pew study, published on 15 June, surveyed just under 10,000 people in 10 EU countries. It found that 74% of Polish people had a favourable view of the EU, followed by Germany (68%), Hungary (67%), Sweden (65%), and the Netherlands (64%), Spain (62%), Italy (57%), France (56%) and the UK (54%). In Greece, only 34% hold a favourable view of the EU.
Younger voters are more likely to have a favourable view of the EU, according to Pew, a nonpartisan polling organisation:
“A median of 73% of those ages 18 to 29 have a favorable opinion of it, compared with a median of 58% of those ages 50 and older. The generation gap is largest in the UK (33 percentage points between young and old), the Netherlands (23 points) and France (22 points).”
The study has also confirmed previous research that ideological lines influence support for the EU. People who place themselves on the left of the political spectrum have, for the most part, a more favourable view of the EU compared with people on the right.
In Germany, 56% of those who put themselves on the right have a favourable view of the EU; on the left it increases to 75% (see chart below). A notable exception is Spain, where 75% of right spectrum support the EU against 51% of those on the left.
The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a think tank associated with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), published its comparative study of eight countries on attitudes towards the EU on 18 August. This report does not include the UK, but provides a comparative analysis of data collected in 2015 and in 2017 based on 6,000 interviews.
Brexit will be bad for the EU
Both studies agree that respondents think Brexit will be bad for the EU.
In the Friedrich Ebert study, non-founding member states are especially pessimistic and expect the EU to be weakened after the UK has left the EU (Slovakia: 51%, Sweden: 48%, Spain: 43% and the Czech Republic: 42%).
The Pew study concurs, but finds slightly different levels. 74% of respondents in Germany think Brexit will be bad for the EU, against 41% in the Friedrich Ebert study. 42% of French and 40% of Dutch people surveyed think Brexit will not have an impact on the EU.
Attitudes towards the EU
The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung found that between 2015 and 2017, the percentage increased in every country of those who said that the advantages of EU membership outweigh the disadvantages. The biggest increase was in Germany with 30%, followed by Spain with 15%.
Pew also found that few countries are in favour of leaving the EU. The median of the 10 countries surveyed is 77% in favour of staying in the EU.
The research centre found that an increasing number want referenda on EU membership however.
The Pew study found that most Europeans have a positive view of their own country’s economy, except those affected by the Eurocrisis.
The German think tank found that a majority of citizens in the eight countries (47%) associate the EU with rising prosperity once again, while only 35% link it to declining prosperity (this figure was still 58 % in 2015).
More common policies
The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung stated that 79% of Germans are in favour of more common EU policies; followed by Spain (79%), Slovakia (68%), Italy (65%) and France (58%).
Refugee and immigration policy
The EU gets bad marks on its handling of the refugee crisis in the Pew study. Not surprisingly, 90% of Greeks surveyed disapproved on the way the EU handles the issue. Poland and Hungary, with 65% and 66% respectively, agree, albeit probably for different reasons. The median lies at 66% of disapproval.
The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung found that only 19% of Czechs thought regulating immigration should be done at EU level, against 73% in Germany. This question shows the East-West divide which is also reflected in the European Council. The biggest changes have occurred in France (-9% compared to 2015) and in Italy (-8%).