Written by Alina Dobreva
What do citizens want from the European Union, now and in the future? On 4 June, EPRS organised a roundtable discussion of the data published in two of the most respected, and quoted, public opinion studies on attitudes to the EU, namely the Eurobarometer and the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes and Trends.
The event brought together Bruce Stokes, from the Washington-based Pew Research Center, and Jacques Nancy, of the Public Opinion Monitoring Unit of the European Parliament. Although the two studies address similar issues, they use different methodologies and approaches. The most important of these is the Pew Center study’s focus on the six most populous EU Member States (Germany, France, Italy, UK, Spain and Poland) and the post-electoral analysis based on the Eurobarometer data, covering all EU Member States.
Support for the EU
Both Mr Stokes and Mr Nancy analysed the trends and fluctuations of citizens’ support for the EU project, its institutions, policies, and/or membership. Mr Stokes emphasised the trend towards recovery of support for the EU to pre-economic crisis levels, and Mr Nancy pointed out that despite this trend, support for the EU remains below that to which EU institutions should aspire. Mr Nancy also presented long-term data related to public support for the EU, underlining the influence of political events. Both analyses point towards the economic conditions in the respective countries as the major factor leading to change in popular support for the EU, its institutions and policies. However, they also acknowledge the importance of other factors, such as the shared values and principles of the EU.
Public opinion regarding the EU is a hotly debated topic in the context of the expected referendum on UK membership. Although the data presented by Mr Stokes demonstrates a trend of increasing support for the EU in the UK, the referendum is too far in the future, and does not yet allow for a reasonable prediction of the outcome.
Concluding the debate, Alina Dobreva of EPRS raised the question of the existence of ‘EU public opinion’ as such. The speakers felt that, compared to the non-EU countries and regions, an EU public opinion exists, based on shared values. However, the highly-valued diversity of the EU also equates to a Europe of both nations and national public opinion.
For more information, you can consult the publications of the EP Public Monitoring unit, pubished by EPRS: