European Union: Latest Opinion Poll Makes Grim Reading for Pro-Europeans

Europe-East, July 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

European Union: Latest Opinion Poll Makes Grim Reading for Pro-Europeans


Interest in EU membership dwindling.

According to the first results of the Eurobarometer poll carried out between May and June 2005, the percentage of citizens polled who believe that membership of the EU is a good thing has fallen by two points to 54%. Overall, members of the euro-zone rate membership most highly (58%) while 54% of those interviewed in the 15 countries which were members before May 1, 2004 were positive about membership. The figures show sharp falls in positive thinking about EU membership in Lithuania (-10 points) Austria and Cyprus (-9 points) and Hungary (-7 points). Interestingly, positive ratings for membership improved by two percentage points in the Netherlands to 77% despite the vote against the EU Constitution on June 1.

The number of interviewees who said that their country had benefited from EU membership has risen by two points since the last survey to 55%. In France and the Netherlands, which voted No to the Constitution, there were clear majorities who believed in the benefits of membership (53% and 67% respectively). While most of those polled in the new member states are convinced of the benefits of membership (59%), 49% of those interviewed in Cyprus said their country had not yet seen any benefit. Swedish citizens are the least convinced about the benefits of membership (50%), while the number of people saying their countries had not received any advantages was high in Austria (46%), Finland and Germany (43%) and the UK (42%).

The public's image of the EU as a whole has deteriorated with only 47% saying it is positive compared to 50% in the last survey. The number of people who have a negative image has increased from 15% to 19%. Ireland and Italy are the countries where the highest number of interviewees said they had a positive image of the EU (68% and 63% respectively) while those most sceptical are the UK ( 28%), Finland (30%) and Austria (30%).

The public's own assessment of its level of knowledge about the EU is still limited with a majority of respondents (51%) saying they felt they knew relatively little about the Union.

Both the European Commission and the European Parliament have suffered a drop in the level of public confidence they enjoy, according to the survey. Confidence in the Commission fell by six percentage points to 46% while those stating they tended not to have confidence in the institution rose from 27% to 31%. While the Parliament may enjoy a higher level of trust than the Commission, this has fallen from 57% to 52% and the number of those not trusting the assembly rose from 26% to 31%. Some countries registered sharp falls in the level of confidence in the institutions. Trust in the Parliament in Ireland fell by 13 points and in the Commission by 15 points. In Spain, confidence in the EP fell by 14 points and in the Commission by 15 points.

Nevertheless, despite the increased level of criticism towards the EU and its institutions in the poll, a majority of respondents (61%) said they were in favour of a European Constitution although the question was phrased in general terms rather than in specific reference to the Constitution agreed by EU leaders and currently in the process of being ratified. The figure was also seven points lower than in the last survey. Support for a constitution fell most sharply in the Netherlands and Austria (-20 points), the Czech Republic (- 19) and Luxembourg (-14) while it increased in Italy by one point (to 74%) and in Hungary by fourteen points to 78%. …

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