Tuesday 31 August 2010

Eurobarometer: Europeans worried about unemployment and economy

The media roundup of the EU-wide opinion poll, Eurobarometer, revealed four strands of news reporting and commentary: Stress on economic challenges, or plunging support for EU membership, scepticism towards public opinion polls like Eurobarometer, and available in ten languages on Presseurop Marco Zatterin’s possible synthesis of citizens’ expectations and lack of delivery by EU institutions.

You can follow Marco Zatterin’s Italian blog Straneuropa on La Stampa.

What can we learn from the questions and answers in the Spring 2010 Standard Eurobarometer 73 (First Results), if we take a closer look?

[A technical note, in case others experience the same problems: Every time I have used the Google Chrome browser to access the Eurobarometer poll I have failed to open the pdf document. If I use Internet Explorer, the Eurobarometer document opens easily.]

Eurobarometer background

The field work was carried out by the TNS Opinion & Social network in May 2010, when the financial, economic and eurozone crises were acutely felt, but the counter-measures by the European Union were mainly political declarations, preparatory work or promised proposals.

During the interview period, prime ministers and finance ministers were busy with the eurozone rescue of Greece, the European financial stabilisation mechanism (EFSM) and the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The intergovernmental, euro area and EU-wide measures announced were more chaotic and hard to understand than transparent or reassuring.

There was also resentment in the air. In a number of member states, such as the so called PIIGs, the “prodigal son” linked hardship with EU rules on reducing public deficits and debt, while the “older son” grumbled why he should pay for the good-for-nothings.

Main concerns

I do not find it surprising that about four out of five respondents felt that the national, the EU and the world economy were in a bad shape. The domestic employment situation was seen as very bad by 34 per cent (page 7). If anything, the small shifts were towards pessimism.

Although the citizens were a bit more optimistic about their own financial and job situation, they experienced no real turn for the better (page 8).

I would not read too much into small percentage shifts when people were asked to name the two most important issues facing their country.

Two faces of the same coin continue to dominate people’s worries since the spring 2009 Eurobarometer: unemployment and the economic situation. Regarding their own country, respondent were less concerned about rising prices (inflation), crime and healthcare, among the fourteen alternatives offered.

However, rising prices (inflation) remained the major anxiety at a personal level, especially in troubled new member states.

Costs of living affect everyone directly, whereas the general economic situation is somewhat more abstract and unemployment hits only a part of the population (page 10).

The mood among EU citizens almost four months ago was sombre, but sentiments may have improved somewhat since then (AFP). There are signs of recovery and rising confidence, but the signals are uneven, and many member states are still in deep trouble.

The wide discrepancies between euro area countries have not laid speculation about the future of the common currency to rest, as experienced on the shop floor by Wolfgang M√ľnchau in the Financial Times.

We have to evaluate the levels of trust and the actions meriting confidence against this background.

Kupchan and Matizandrea

In The Washington Post, Charles Kupchan took a broad and pessimistic or realistic view of the state of the EU: As nationalism rises, will the European Union fail?

I first noticed Kupchan’s thought-provoking article through Daniel Mason of The Endless Track blog.

I also found a comment (in Italian) about the Eurobarometer poll on Matizandrea’s Blog: Quarantadue percento (Forty two per cent).

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 Bloggingportal.eu 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.

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