While an increasing number of EU citizens are fearing for their jobs during the economic crisis, they also expect the EU to act as a protective shield, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey.
The latest poll, published by the European Commission on 18 December, sounded out the opinions of EU citizens at the height of the economic crisis during the months of October and November 2008.
Unsurprisingly, in the midst of global financial uncertainty, the proportion of Europeans who consider that the EU economic situation is good has declined to 33%, down a full 25 percentage points from the last poll.
In addition, more than half of Europeans (53%) now expect unemployment to rise in 2009 – an increase of 14% since the last Eurobarometer.
Julien Zalc, research director at TNS, the company responsible for EuroBarometer polling, told EURACTIV that the most significant change in the latest findings was the degree to which economic fears had permeated all aspects of European life.
“In the last poll (spring 2008), we saw that this economic ‘feel-bad factor’ was impacting on some attitudes of Europeans, but not really affecting their ‘real lives,'” he explained. “But now, with the financial crisis, this feel-bad factor is permeating all sectors of life,” he added.
The second key finding, according to TNS, is an increased tendency among citizens to trust the EU to support them during the economic downturn, and, indeed, to counter the negative effects of globalisation as a whole.
What this tells us, according to Julien Zalc, is that people “want to be protected by the EU” as they believe its size and collective economic clout “is better able to protect them against the crisis than their countries alone”.
Perhaps as a result, the perceived benefit of EU membership has remained stable among citizens, even climbing slightly by two percentage points to 56%.
Other general attitudes to the EU also remain stable. Support for EU membership is up one point to 53%, while the image of the EU, despite having lowered slightly (down three points to 45%) is also more or less comparable to pre-financial crisis levels.