Brexit effect: Public opinion survey shows that EU is more appreciated than ever
The latest EU public opinion survey, conducted in September 2018, reveals a clear and growing appreciation for EU membership, reaching a record high of 68%.
The latest Eurobarometer survey, measuring public attitudes to the EU across member states, highlights that more people than ever consider their country’s membership of the European Union to be a good thing (62%). This is the highest figure recorded in the last 25 years. 68% are also of the view that their country has benefitted from EU membership - the highest figure since 1983.
Nearly all results measuring support for the EU showed a significant upturn following the UK referendum in 2016, suggesting growing concern across the continent at the impact that Brexit will have and a growing awareness, due to the difficult negotiations, of the benefits of being a member of the EU. 66% of European respondents would vote for their country to remain a member of the EU (a majority in all member states) and only 17% would contemplate leaving, with 17% undecided.
The latest Eurobarometer figures also show a growing sense of satisfaction amongst Europeans in the democratic functioning of the EU (49%), representing a three point increase since the previous survey in April, whilst 48% feel that their voice counts in the EU, though this latter sentiment appears to be on the decline in a number of countries.
The Parlemeter 2018 survey though is not all good news. Despite significant and growing support for the EU in general, half of respondents are not happy with the direction the EU is heading in, with a similar result regarding their own country. Public opinion also seems quite stable in terms of expectations about the role of the EU in the future, with 48% wanting the EU to play a more important role, as opposed to 27% preferring less.
As regards the image of Parliament across the EU, one third (32%) hold a positive view, one fifth (21%) a negative view and a relative majority (43%) remain neutral.
There is growing awareness of next year’s European elections, with 41% correctly identifying the date in May 2019 - a nine point increase over a similar survey six months ago and seven points more than in June 2013. However, 44% still could not say when the elections will be taking place, compared to 46% in June 2013.
With 51% of citizens declaring to be interested in the elections, citizens’ campaign priorities have evolved over the past six-month period. Immigration now tops the agenda (50%), followed by economy (47%) and youth unemployment (47%), whilst combatting terrorism moves down to fourth place with 44%.
Commenting on the results of the survey, President Tajani said: “As details of the UK’s withdrawal agreement are being finalised, these figures highlight growing appreciation of the benefits of EU membership across the continent. Nevertheless, there is much work to be done. Continued cooperation and solidarity at the EU level is essential in delivering answers to the concerns of ordinary European citizens.”
Guy Verhofstadt, Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, added: "The fact that 51% of UK citizens surveyed want to stay in the EU is a stark reminder of the deep divisions wrought by the Brexit decision and the need for us to find a sustainable and close long-term future relationship in the form of a broad and deep association agreement. While we must prepare for all eventualities, it appears there is little appetite in the UK or elsewhere in the EU for a so-called hard Brexit, or a costly, no-deal scenario and I hope that the outcome of the negotiations will ultimately reflect this."
Background to the survey
The fieldwork of this survey was carried out between 8 and 26 September 2018 among 27 474 Europeans aged 16 or more, interviewed face-to-face by Kantar Public in all 28 Member States.