Pew Research says things are well in the EU


Angela Merkel at an EU summit in BrusselsOn 2 June, Pew Research Center published the opinion poll results on the attitudes to the EU [1]. Contrary to rising Eurosceptic parties, immigration tensions and economic uncertainty, the research drew a bright picture.

Opinion polls from Pew Research are remarkable because they are conducted by one company, with one methodology and across the six biggest EU Member States. The present wave of face-to-face and telephone interviews of 6028 people took place between 7 April and 13 May in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK.

Compared to the previous year, the vision of EU economy has improved, regardless of problems with Greece. Last year the median proportion of optimists was at 53%, now it stands at 61%. In the meantime, respondents are very critical towards their national economies. Only 12% in Italy, 14% in France and 18% in Spain think it is in good condition.

Eurosceptic parties draw patronising attitudes in Spain, Italy, Germany, and the UK. Majority thinks their presence is good for respective countries. People in Poland and France think largely otherwise.

The highest proportion of EU enthusiasts is in Poland (72%). The lowest number is in Britain (51%) but it is still a majority. Asked on how they would vote if a referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU were held today. 55% said they would prefer to keep Britain in Europe.

The interesting results, however, contradict the results of last elections and importance of current issues. For example, the findings can be interpreted as that immigration and economy, which are usually at the top of national ratings of most important issues, are overestimated. They do not influence people’s attitudes toward the EU. In other words, it appears from the research that these issues are not seen by majorities as results of systemic flaws of the EU and do not undermine faith in the entire European project.

Alongside attitudes to eurosceptics, this means critical views in various countries to the EU are exaggerated. Although there is frustration toward Brussels that effects domestic policy and even election results, majority still thinks the EU is a good thing and a good goal. People in biggest countries believe the EU bears more advantages.

Finally, according to the poll, it is possible to speak of a single European identity – at least in economy. EU and national economies draw contrasting views. People do not associate national failures with the decisions at EU level. Apparently, national elites are worse than European bureaucrats in Brussels. This brings the conclusion that the European project is underestimated and has a huge growth potential (“Faith in European project reviving”, in Pew Research’s words).

The bright future, drawn in the research, is not, however, confirmed by a single political event. Since the European Parliament elections in 2014 [2] when many pointed out rising right-wing parties, eurosceptics have gained even more power. They are not always represented adequately in their national legislatures but it is impossible to deny the growing number of people who support them. Elections in Spain, Greece, Finland, France, Sweden, Poland, the UK and other countries were, and still are, overshadowed with debates about the future of the EU, about EU reform linked to economic and immigration issues. That the opinion poll, in essence, refutes election results and brings opinion over fact makes seriously question its quality.




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