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Europeans in 2016: Perceptions and expectations, fight against terrorism and radicalisation

Europeans in 2016: Perceptions and expectations, the fight against terrorism and radicalisation


This Special Eurobarometer of the European Parliament was conducted in the 28 Member States of the European Union, from 9 to 18 April 2016, by TNS opinion.

It focuses on the perceptions and expectations Europeans have regarding the EU’s action, the fight against terrorism and to the mutual defence clause.

It is published shortly after the British voted for withdrawal from the European Union.

High expectations regarding EU action

  • Independently of how knowledgeable European citizens are about the powers and responsibilities of the EU, it seemed interesting to ask them about their perception of EU action in a number of areas and about what they expect of the EU.

    Europeans feel that EU action is largely insufficient in most of the fifteen areas suggested to them, and that a massive majority of citizens would like the EU to intervene more than at present in these areas.
  • Thus, on the issue of migration, for example, 66% consider EU action to be insufficient and 74% would like to see the EU take more action. Or on the protection of external borders, 61% consider EU action to be insufficient and 71% would like to see the EU take more action.
  • These European results have to be put in perspective, though. Indeed, for the tested policies, national differences are important. Thus, to use the policies mentioned above, national variations reach 34 percentage points on the migration issue, and 39 points on the protection of external borders.

Almost three quarters of Europeans think that what brings them together is more important than what separates them.

  • 74% of respondents think so, compared to 19% do not agree with that statement. This result has increased in 22 Member States, and exceeds 80% in 12 Member States.

The fight against terrorism and radicalisation: strong involvement of respondents

  • The risk of a terrorist attack is considered to be high by 40% of respondents in the EU, 47% consider there to be a medium risk, and 11%considered it to be low. At national level, an absolute majority of French, British and Belgian respondents think the risk of attack is high in their country.
  • The global level seems most appropriate to effectively combat the terrorist threat. Europeans are 38% to think so, compared to 23% for the European level, 21% for the national level, and 6% for the local or regional level. 10% answer all levels simultaneously.
  • The three measures which Europeans thought were most urgent for combating terrorism are the fight against the financing of terrorist groups (42%), the fight against the roots of terrorism and radicalisation (41%) and strengthened control of the external EU borders (39%).
  • With specific regard to the fight against radicalisation and recruitment of EU citizens by terrorist organisations, the fight against social exclusion and poverty (39%) is the most urgent measure for Europeans. This answer is the first measure cited in 23 out of 28 Member States. The fight against radical websites and the removal of illegal content from the internet and online social networks ranks second (35%), followed by communication campaigns to raise awareness amongst the youngest and the most vulnerable about the risks of radicalisation (32%).

Mutual defence clause

  • The mutual defence clause is not widely known among Europeans. However, once explained, it enjoys widespread support. Indeed, the survey shows that only 31% of Europeans have already heard of it. However, a clear majority of Europeans (85%) support this provision after once they had received its definition.
The EP and the expectations of European citizens

The European Parliament regularly commissions surveys on public opinion in the 28 Member States.

These surveys cover a wide range of issues, focusing primarily on the European citizens' knowledge of the European Parliament, their perceptions of the EU and its main challenges, their expectations in view of the European elections, the European Parliament and the European integration in general.

The analysis of the results is meant to ensure the most complete overview of national evolutions, regional specificities, as well as socio-demographic differences and historical trends.