Brexit or not, Europe’s voters are cooler on EU, survey reveals

Instant op-ed, Berlin. [Denis Bocquet/Flickr]

Whether or not Britons vote this month to quit the European Union, fellow voters across the continent are increasingly sceptical of the benefits of staying in the bloc.

A Pew Research Center survey published yesterday (7 June) suggests the 23 June Brexit referendum will be close, with 48% of British voters polled unfavorable to Europe and 44% in favor.

But opposition has also increased in traditionally more positive countries – with a 17 point drop in EU support to 38% in France, for example, over a single year.

In the 10 countries surveyed, only Greek voters, forced by the EU and international lenders to adopt a harsh austerity program, are more upset with Brussels than the French.

The Union is still supported among newer members, with 72% of Poles and 61% of Hungarians expressing a favorable view, compared to only 27% of Greeks.

EU favourability

EU favourability

Even among the bloc’s richer founding members, support barely reaches 50% and the trend is downward, with support in Germany falling eight points to that mark between 2015 and 2016.

Across Europe, younger voters and supporters of left-wing parties are generally more supportive of European Union membership than are the elderly or right-wing populists.

But the electorates are united in their concern about how the Union has dealt with the refugee crisis, with large majorities expressing frustration across the board.

There is also wide – but less universal – disapproval of the way in which the bloc handled the economic impact of the eurozone crisis, particularly on the Mediterranean.

In the debt-laden south, 65% of Spanish voters, 66% of the French, 68% of Italians and a whopping 92% of Greeks disapprove of EU economic management.

Handling of economy

Handling of economy

Ever closer union

Unsurprisingly, this general feeling of malaise translates into lower support for Europe’s 1957 treaty goal of an “ever closer union” between the member states.

In six out of the 10 countries surveyed, more voters would like to see powers returned to their home capitals from Brussels than would like to see greater centralization.

Most tellingly for the upcoming vote, some 65% of British voters would like to see London recover some of its influence, compared to only six percent for closer union.

But, despite a mounting tide of euroskepticism, most voters in Europe would regret seeing Britain leave.

Majorities in the other nine countries – including 89% of Swedes – oppose Brexit.

The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes survey is conducted with face-to-face and telephone polls by TNS BMRB of around 1,000 voting age adults in each country.

The 10 countries involved in the survey are: Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

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