Friday, 27 August 2010

UK Eurobarometer score: Euromyths 68 - Trust 20

About three months from the conclusion of the fieldwork, the first results of the regular Eurobarometer poll are out. Yesterday, many Twitter comments about the findings were like shells fired in an artillery battle between entrenched frontlines, but even with the best will in the world it is hard to be analytical in 140 characters about a survey of opinions in 27 EU member states (and candidate countries).

Not unsurprisingly, the untiring anti-EU munitions factory Open Europe uses its blog to accuse the European Commission of spin when highlighting the demand for crisis resolution by the European Union.

Anyone heard of “the pot calling the kettle black”?

The press summaries of Open Europe seem to translate the lobby group’s professed aim of radical EU reform into a daily tirade of negative quotes from disgruntled individuals all over Europe.

These selective snippets, as well as opinions and ‘research’ by Open Europe are then fired off by mass market media on the anti-EU campaign trail (examples The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express), as well as their high-profile columnists.

Various campaign groups (examples EU Referendum Campaign and the Bruges Group, mentioned by Eurogoblin) in the United Kingdom are only too happy to praise their Lords and pass the ammunition, hoping for V-Day in the form of an ‘out’ referendum.

Pot shots by ‘patriotic’ foot soldiers in the Angloblogosphere (examples EUReferendum blog, Witterings From Witney, The Talking Clock, Your Freedom and Ours, The Boiling Frog, John Redwood, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, Cranmer) echo the big guns by repeat fire consisting of legitimate criticism, one-sided cursing, twisted facts and pure Euromyths.

Because many of the ‘better off out’ blogs are content to quote each other, without caring to check or evaluate the original sources, many Euromyths keep making the rounds long after being exposed as complete bollocks.

Small wonder that critical but sane bloggers like Nosemonkey, Eurogoblin, The European Citizen, Atomic Spin, The Endless Track, Robert Jones, Euromove and WSJ Real Time Brussels repeatedly refute Euromyths or calmly disprove them by presenting more constructive views.

The saner voices may have the facts and arguments on their side, but they lack fire power. The anti-EU shelling – branded as eurosceptic - has turned public opinion in the United Kingdom, especially England, deeply suspicious of European integration and the European Union. According to Eurobarometer 73 (Spring 2010), in the UK only 20 per cent of the Crown subjects tend to trust the EU, while 68 per cent lack trust, so the levels of trust are way below the EU averages. Exceptionally, in Great Britain even the national parliament and government are slightly more trusted than the EU.

In the short run the negative attitudes are a problem for the European Union, but at a deeper level the disconnect between voter sentiment and rulers poses serious questions for the political system in the United Kingdom.

How far can the policy choices in a representative democracy legitimately be allowed to ennoble public opinion by straying from the views of the ruled?

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Comments relevant to the topic discussed in each Grahnlaw blog post are most welcome. However, the number of spam comments has skyrocketed. This is the sad reason for comment moderation, so it may take a while before your valued comment appears.

It is easier to understand a language than to use it correctly. As Eurobloggers we could and should promote interaction among Europeans across borders and between linguistic communities. Grahnlaw has adopted a multilingual comment policy:

I do my best to read comments in Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish, even if the Grahnlaw blog and my possible replies are in English.

Antonia on the Euonym blog (Talking about the EU) tells us that the European Commission in the UK arranges a Day of Multilingual Blogging on 26 September 2010, and the UK Representation has been joined by the multilingual aggregator and individual Eurobloggers. Join the event page on Facebook, spread the word through social media and personal contacts, begin preparing your blog posts and start learning a new language.