Europeans fear ISIS and refugees, oppose increased military budgets

Events like the Brussels attacks have undoubtedly contributed to a widespread fear of IS across Europe. [Joel Schalit/Flickr]

A wide-ranging survey carried out across Europe has highlighted that most EU citizens believe that Islamic State is the biggest threat to security. However, a majority of respondents opposed bigger military spending as a solution. EURACTIV’s partner WirtschaftsWoche reports.

Unsurprisingly, the terror group came out on top of the biggest perceived threats, with 76% of respondents answering as such. Only 17% said otherwise, in the survey carried out by the US-based Pew Research Centre.

In the spring, the pollsters surveyed over 11,000 Europeans in ten different EU countries: France, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Greece, Poland and Hungary. This selection of countries represents 80% of the EU population and 82% of the bloc’s economic output.

In Spain, 93% considered IS to be the biggest threat, followed by France (91%), Italy (87%) and Germany (85%). The Netherlands, Hungary and Sweden polled at around 70%, but these figures are still significantly high.

Nearly half of Europeans link the matter of security to the refugee crisis, as 49% replied that a large number of people coming from Syria and Iraq represents a threat. But, EU citizens are in fact divided on the issue. There are significant concerns in Poland (73%), Hungary and Greece (both 69%) that the influx of refugees could be a way for terrorists to enter Europe. In the Netherlands (36%), Germany (31%) and Sweden (24%) the concerns are far less pronounced.

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The issue of security and the refugee crisis are both viewed differently even within individual member states. For example, in France, 61% of conservatives voiced concerns about refugees, but only 29% did so from the left. Similar trends were observed in the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Greece, Spain and Sweden.

Differences in education also had an impact on how refugees are perceived. In the UK, the survey found that people who have been educated to a higher level believe the refugee issue to be less of a threat, only 30% said they were concerned. This compares to 62% of people that have received less education. This represents a difference of 32%.

However, despite the perceived threat, Europeans are generally not in favour of countering it with increased military spending. Across Europe, the survey found that a majority of people are in favour of maintaining military budgets at their current levels or even scaling them back.

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Only in Poland, where 52% responded positively, did increased spending receive backing. The country already lies above the EU average in this area.

Six out of ten EU countries responded that they fear a military response will only lead to more terrorism. The Dutch (66%), Germans and Greeks (both 64%), as well as the British (57%), topped the polls on this matter. Hungary, Italy and Poland were the only member states were a slight majority in favour of military intervention prevailed.


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