EU leadership approval ratings tumble to all-time low


Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Luxembourg are the only EU countries where citizens approve the European Union’s leadership with a clear 50% majority, according to a recent poll by Gallup. Approval ratings in nearly all other member states have dropped dramatically since 2008, especially in the crisis-hit south.

The approval of the EU leadership is lowest in Greece (19%), Cyprus (21%) and Spain (27%), according to Gallup poll released on Wednesday (8 January).

Other countries with critically low approval ratings include the United Kingdom (29%), Sweden (30%) or the Czech Republic (30%).

The EU is still backed by a majority of Luxembourgish citizens, whose level of approval is the highest, at 67%. But only three other member states show a majority of people endorsing the EU leadership - Germany (59%), Belgium (56%) and Denmark (50%).

Overall, citizens who approve the EU's leadership are in a minority in as many as 23 countries out of the 27 surveyed (Croatia, the EU’s 28th member since July, was not part of the survey).

Gallup has polled the approval rating of the EU leadership each year since the start of the economic crisis, in 2008.

Over the past years, approval ratings dropped 32 percentage points in Spain and 23 points in Ireland. Sweden (17 points), Finland (14 points) and Greece (13 points since 2009) also show a decline in the approval of EU decision making.

Youth favourable to EU

For the heads of the European Union there are a few reasons to be cheerful.

Despite record-high numbers of youth unemployment, citizens between 15 and 30 years of age are the most likely to endorse the EU leadership, the poll shows. This group's approval has also dropped over the past years but 14 member states still have a majority of young people supporting the EU's leadership.

In Italy, support for the EU's leadership rose by 9 percentage points (pp) since 2008, probably highlighting growing frustration with national politics. Other countries which saw rising approval ratings for the EU include Poland and Belgium (+1pp), Germany and Lithuania (+3pp), Malta (+4pp), and Latvia (+6pp).

Austerity drives discontent

The poll comes amidst cautious optimism about the European economy. Official figures released by Eurostat on Wednesday (8 January) showed that the unemployment rate across the economic bloc was no longer rising since May 2013, signalling the crisis had started to ease.

Meanwhile, Ireland was the first EU country to exit a bailout programme in December and Portugal’s bailout agreement will end in May. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on 30 December that the country would exit its bailout package this year, despite a remaining €11 billion funding gap.

While politicians on national and European level now hail the results of the bailout packages, the approval ratings show that, in many countries, public opinion is still struggling to accept the reform programmes that have caused social despair over the past years.

An earlier survey by Gallup showed that up to 60% of citizens across Europe said there were “better alternatives to the policy of austerity” and 51% said the austerity-driven response of the EU since the economic crisis “was not working”.

These sentiments also reflected on the EU leadership approval ratings released this week: “Disapproval is clearest in the bailout countries where the EU has imposed austerity policies, compounding the economic hardships individuals were already experiencing from the financial and economic crisis,” Gallup said.

The record-low approval could consolidate the expected rise of anti-European parties in next May’s EU elections.

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Stefanos Ch. Samakas's picture

The record low approval reflects the Commission's guardianship of Treaties during crisis management. EU leadership approval sadly reflects EU membership approval. A good captain is only judged by the rough seas, our ancestors left to us - how true !

Emanuele's picture

The final sentence:

"The record-low approval could consolidate the expected win of anti-European parties in next May’s EU elections"

is completely inaccurate and misleading, unless you change "win" into "raise".

Gerry's picture

Hard times result in a unpopular government. Hardly a surprise.

evad666's picture

Why do some countries appear to have excessive levels of representation on the commission?
Are the numbers of commissioners tied to national populations,GDP or Land Area?
Whichever way the Makeup of the commission seems heavily biased in some areas.
Why does Poland have fewer than Luxemburg and Holland?
Perhaps patronage creeps in here.

We the electorate should be told

mike's picture

In case you wouldn't have noticed: it's election time! The EU hired a top-notch advertising company. In airports, railway stations,... basically everywhere we learn that the crisis is over and that this continent is in great shape.

Meanwhile the number of Britons who rely on food banks has been multiplied by 20 in 6 years' time; 13% of Italian families now live in poverty; the number of Spaniards who rely on Caritas has risen from 370,000 before the crisis to 1,300,000.

Last year, Huffington Post correspondent Thanos Dimadis met Barroso. During the interview Barroso spoke of a "European family".

On his way to the interview, Thanos was surprised when he crossed Eurocrats that were on strike. He suddenly realized that "what is called "European family" is actually just a clique of employees enjoying special privileges."

evad666's picture

He suddenly realized that "what is called "European family" is actually just a clique of employees enjoying special privileges."

Hmm I also question all the Brits working in Europe I suggest they are also a clique enjoying special privileges.
Ours are known to include Lobbying groups and Europhile Press types.
The only ones we ever see in debates are the much maligned UKIP.
UKIP are the only ones who respond to email.

Otto's picture

This poll data is almost meaningless without the information about the approval of the local leadership (on the national level).

Do people in, say, Greece hate the European Union OR do they hate government in general? For example, their level of approval of the Greece government can be 10%, lower than the level of approval of the EU.

George Mc's picture

"This poll data is almost meaningless without the information about the approval of the local leadership (on the national level)."

Totally irrelevant, you are trying to measure two entirely different things.

I think that my government (largely Conservative), could be doing better. That has no bearing on my Conservative local authority which is doing quite a good job. In summary your comparison is almost meaningless.