Democracy on the move - European Elections: One year to go
The latest Eurobarometer survey, published one year ahead of the European elections in May 2019, shows a continuous increase in citizens’ support for the European Union. Over two-thirds of respondents (67%) are convinced that their country benefits from being a member of the EU. This is the highest score ever measured since 1983. Also for the first time, a majority of respondents (48%) believes their voice counts in the EU.
Almost a third of respondents (32%) already today know the date of the European elections in 2019, 50% are interested in the elections. Citizens see the Spitzenkandidaten process as a positive development (49% say it would encourage them to go to vote in the next European elections) - but 70% of respondents want it to go together with a real debate on European issues and the future of the EU.
Furthermore, most respondents agree that the Spitzenkandidaten process brings more transparency (63%), is a significant progress for European democracy (61%) and gives more legitimacy to the European Commission (60%). In contrast, less than half of respondents think that this process would prevent national governments from choosing the best candidate (46%), while 45% believe it has no real impact (45%).
For the upcoming election campaign, Europeans want to hear about security issues in the broadest sense, including immigration, while on the other hand issues related to personal prosperity and well-being are equally high on their agenda.
A majority of respondents continues to be satisfied with the way democracy works in their country (55%) and in the EU (46%). While respondents from some countries are more satisfied with the workings of democracy in the EU than in their own country, citizens from some larger Member States are showing a significantly lower degree of satisfaction with the way the democracy works in the EU. This becomes even clearer when the level of satisfaction with the way democracy works is put in perspective with the countries’ GDP per capita as well as their current unemployment rates.
The survey also looked at citizens’ opinions on new and emerging political parties. Between 2013 and 2018, more than 70 new parties and political alliances emerged in EU Member States, some of which campaigned successfully by protesting against the political establishment.
When asked to position themselves on a range of statements about such new parties and movements, a majority of Europeans perceive them rather positively. Half of the respondents do not consider such parties or movements a threat to democracy, whereas 38% think they would be. 70% of citizens surveyed consider that just being against something would not be enough and would not improve anything. But 56% believe that new parties and movements can bring real change, while 53% of citizens agree with the fact that they could find new solutions better than the political establishment.
One year ahead of the European ballot, this survey takes a look at citizens’ perceptions of voting. Civic reasons - such as ‘it is their duty as citizens’ - come first when Europeans are asked why they think people would vote in the European elections. A great majority think that people would abstain because ‘they believe that their vote will not change anything’, ‘they distrust the political system’ or ‘are not interested in politics or in elections in general’. The lack of information is also a relevant element to be considered. Technical reasons also play a considerable role as 15% of respondents believe that people would not vote as they might have ‘no time or something more important to do’, while 12% ‘do not know where or how to vote’.