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New European Sentiment?

by afew Tue May 19th, 2009 at 07:28:30 AM EST


This is more on the general context than on the elections themselves, but an EU-wide poll published yesterday has some perhaps interesting results. They are already being billed as The Emergence of a New European Feeling (L'Emergence d'un nouveau sentiment européen in Le Figaro). Why this title? Because the younger age-groups stand out as markedly more pro-European (or the older ones are remarkable for their cynicism, whichever you prefer), and perhaps because this map looks encouraging:

Blue: a majority said membership of the EU was a chance in the context of globalisation
Light blue: a minority said membership of the EU was a chance in the context of globalisation

Looks positive? Well, it does rather depend on the phrasing of the question...

The poll was commissioned by pro-European centre-right group Fondation pour l'innovation politique and the Centre of European Studies (I think this refers to a department within Sciences Po Paris) with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Fondation Robert-Schuman, and carried out by TNS Opinion between 25 March and 15 April in the 27 EU countries with a total sample size of 15,130 (that makes an average of 560 per country, though there's no information on actual national sample sizes). The results can be downloaded in French here (pdf). The first question is:

QA1. Personnellement, diriez-vous que dans le contexte général de la mondialisation – c'est-à-dire des échanges des biens et de la libre circulation des personnes - l’Union européenne constitue pour vous … ?
Would you say personally that in the context of globalisation - meaning trade in goods and the free movement of persons - the EU constitutes for you...?

  • Plutôt une chance Rather a chance

  • Plutôt une menace Rather a threat

  • Ni l'un, ni l'autre Neither one nor the other

I've translated French "chance" by "chance", but, while its English meaning is closer to "opportunity", in French it may be understood as an opportunity or as a fortunate circumstance. How it was rendered in the different languages involved, no idea. It's probably a rather vague question on which to base any major conclusion. Especially as it's followed by the strong alternative "threat", which is likely to repel the undecided. In other words, the question tends to ease the way towards pro-European responses. The EU27 results are:

  • Rather a chance.........56%

  • Rather a threat.............17%

  • Neither......................20%

  • No answer...........6%

Despite the woolliness of the question, it does bring some balm to pro-European hearts. The country breakdown shows that - with the notable and surprising exception of traditional EU stalwarts the Netherlands (41% chance) and Belgium (47% chance),and, a little less surprising, Sweden with 46% - the countries that are suffering most from the economic crisis, particularly new Central-European member states, give lower scores to "Rather a chance", especially Hungary with 41%. And, of course, the UK, by far the lowest with 22%. Yet, even there, only 17% choose to call the EU "a threat" - 56% take refuge in the Neither/Nor option.

Meanwhile, the stars of the "chance" side are the Irish Republic (72% !!), with Germany on 70% and the Czech republic and France on 67%. Apparently a counter-intuitive mix?

It's the age and activity breakdown of these results that inspires the headline in Le Figaro, since the 18-24 group sees the EU as a chance at 65%, with the score decreasing gradually to the over-55s at 52%. And students as a group see the EU as a chance at 74%.

Then there's a question that concerns the elections. The first question elicited an EU27 majority in favour of a (woolly) positive view of Europe, but interest in the elections is a minority position:

  • Very interested.........11%

  • Rather interested.............35%

  • Rather uninterested.................35%

  • Not at all interested...........18%

With 58% on the "interested" side of the question, the Irish Republic again stands out. Slovakia stands out on the other side, with 70% uninterested.

Among the further questions (some are not fully legible in the pdf!) there's one that asks by what means people would like to be informed in view of the elections. EU27:

  • TV debates between (your country) party leaders.........43%

  • European TV debates between candidates, with voice-over translation.............29%%

  • An Internet information site......................28%

  • Public debates between candidates in your constituency......................18%

  • TV/radio spots explaining party programmes......................18%

  • Posters showing the candidates' faces......................9%

  • None of these...........4%

(Two choices were possible)

It's interesting to see the fairly strong showing there for trans-European translated debates, and for Internet, among more traditional means. No question was asked about the printed press...

And the other question that seemed interesting to me is about how the respondents think they can best make their opinion heard by political leaders. (two choices possible)

  • Vote.........46%

  • Join in debates with political leaders.............20%%

  • Sign petitions......................14%

  • Participate in Internet blogs and forums......................13%

  • Join a political party......................13%

  • Participate in demonstrations, rallies......................11%

  • Join a trade union......................10%

  • Go on strike......................7%

  • More radical means, eg blocking economic activity or (question incomplete)......................4%

  • None of these...........6%

It's nice to see the vote in favour of voting, but how does it fit with projected turnout that is lower than 46%? And joining in debates with political leaders seems a bit of a pipe dream (Reality TV effect?). But the score for blogs is gratifying - and it's at 17% among younger age groups.

Sorry I've no time to break down and translate more. Those who read French can take a look if they have time (and can get over being irritated by the bad pdf formatting that cuts off the end of some questions).

And what do these results inspire you to think, (apart from the usual this kind of poll is rubbish ;))?

I guess that in the Netherlands, globalisation = immigration for a lot of people today, even if the economic dimension is spelled out explicitely.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 19th, 2009 at 08:01:29 AM EST
Fuzzy question + fuzzy answers + polls in 27 countries = somebody is pushing a narrative and willing to pay for it.

So the questions that comes to my mind is: who is behind this? What narrative are they planting? And what do they wish to achieve by it?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue May 19th, 2009 at 09:45:42 AM EST
Have you got any answers? Because frankly, it's the kind of remark any poll gets, and it doesn't get us very far.

I'll be the first to deconstruct manipulative polling, and I've said what I thought of the first question here.

Relatively speaking, though, it's not without interest to see the differences between countries and between age groups - they are all answering the same questions.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 19th, 2009 at 11:38:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We only have the questions in french, so unless they all answer them in french we do not know how the questions were translated. Wolly question translated could quite some difference in different languages.

As to answers, I would look more to presentation then poll. In the linked article - which is a debate article by one of the authors of the study (right?) - the conclusion is:

Nos classes politiques devront s'adapter à la nouvelle donne car la globalisation est entrée dans les consciences et avec elle une autre idée de l'Europe. Ce sentiment ne procède pas d'un idéal relancé mais des premières expériences du siècle. Les Européens sont à la recherche d'une puissance publique supplémentaire, non seulement capable de les protéger mais aussi de fortifier leurs nations qui ne peuvent relever seules les nouveaux défis planétaires. Ils ne l'imaginent pas en lieu et place de leurs puissances publiques nationales mais à côté, comme en appui.

And considering how nice that message is, I am reconsidering my initial grumpiness. Good on them for pushing this narrative with a manipulative poll!

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue May 19th, 2009 at 12:41:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / Majority of Europeans not interested in European Parliament elections

While a majority of Europeans say they like the European Union, more than half have declared no interest in the June European elections, a fresh study has shown.

When asked about the 4-7 June poll, 18 percent of the respondents said they were "not at all interested" in it, while 35 percent said they were "rather not interested," a TNS Opinion study for the French Political Innovation Foundation released on Monday (18 May) showed.

EUObserver manages an entire article on this survey with just that mention of "liking" the EU, and headlines on the disinterest in the elections.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 19th, 2009 at 03:32:14 PM EST

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