The EP and the expectations of European citizens 

Major changes in European public opinion with regard to the EU (2015 edition) 

This desk research is dedicated to the major changes in European public opinion with regard to the EU since 1973, the year in which the Eurobarometer was introduced.

The results are presented on a timeline, in order to measure the perception Europeans have of the EU through its major steps, being institutional, political, economic and social. This is the second edition of the 2014 Desk Research, updated with results of the 2015 Parlemeter.

The main findings about public opinion's evolution for over 40 years (from 1973 to 2015) show how it evolved upwards and downwards.

- Major institutional and political events in the EU generally improve public perceptions of the Union. This is particularly true of enlargements and elections to the European Parliament.

- In spite of the various crises, Europeans are clearly attached to Europe when it comes to EU related fundamental issues.

  1. Since 1973, the feeling that membership of the EU is a “good thing” remains in a majority.
  2. Since 1983 and reaching a peak in 2015, a majority of respondents have felt their country has benefited from membership of the EU.
  3. The view that what unites the citizens of the Member States is more important than what divides them is clearly held by a majority of Europeans: it was the case in 2008, in 2009, in 2013 and in 2015.
  4. A majority of Europeans still believe that they would be better protected against the crisis if their country adopted coordinated measures with other Member States, rather than individual measures. However, the latter have increased significantly since 2009.
  5. Between 2009 and 2015, the EU remained for Europeans the player best able to deal effectively with the consequences of the financial and economic crisis.

- Moreover, the analysis over time shows the overriding influence of the economic and social context on public opinion. This is very well illustrated by the financial and economic crisis which began in 2008, prompting a sharp decline in indicators of support for the EU, they have started to increase for the last two years though.

  1. Unsurprisingly, since autumn 2008, the European economic situation is perceived as “bad”, even though this perception has improved positively since 2013 as well as the expectations of Europeans for the next twelve months.
  2. Trust in the European Union and its institutions started to decline from spring 2010 onwards. The May 2014 elections brought an improvement, however.
  3. The image of the EU deteriorates significantly from 2011, when the economic crisis became a crisis of the public debt of the Member States. However, since autumn 2013, there has been a gradual increase in the number of respondents having a positive image of the EU.

NB: Please note that the analysis is based on the European average of the Member States which made up the EU at the time the various surveys were conducted. This average is weighted in order to reflect the population of each of the Member States. Readers should bear in mind that in today's Europe of 28 Member States, the six most populated countries make up 70% of the EU average.