Monday 30 August 2010

Eurobarometer media roundup reveals four readings

From a summary of the Eurobarometer controversy we set course for our following harbour: a roundup of how the latest EU-wide poll of public opinion has been received. In Roundup haven we bunker facts and arguments for the next leg of our voyage.

We find four threads of thought in the news reports and comments on the latest Eurobarometer poll.

Economic challenges

Some of the news reports and comments have focused on the growing demand for economic policy coordination and reform, the points the European Commission chose to highlight in its press release.

It’s the economy, stupid, said a curious Yankee in Europe’s court, intimating that US and EU citizens share common priorities about economic woes.

On the WSJ Real Time Brussels blog, John W. Miller highlighted a broad base of support for spending cuts and belt-tightening.

The Eurolocal blog gives extended coverage (in Catalan) to the support for economic reform: Els ciutadans de la UE, a favor de reforçar la governanca econòmica europea!

Plunging EU support

Much of the news reporting concentrated on the sinking levels of support for EU membership, something Open Europe also stressed, besides bitching about the Commission.

Marcin Grajewski recorded for Reuters that popular support for European Union membership had fallen to a nine-year low, in May when the EU was hit by sovereign-debt problems and when some member states were in recession.

Meera Louis, for Bloomberg, reported that Europeans’ confidence in the European Union dropped to a six-year low as the 27-nation bloc battled the Greece-led debt crisis.

Even prospective members have gone cold on the European project, with just 27% of Turks saying they trust Brussels, said the Bulgarian news agency

Public support for the European Union has collapsed to a nine-year low in all of its 27 countries, was the reading of The Daily Express in the United Kingdom, news warmly received by anti-EU commentators.

Euro(barometer) sceptics

The European Citizen was sceptic about the possibilities to draw real policy conclusions from vague Eurobarometer questions and answers. In his latest comment, Eurocentric thought it was a pity that the Commission and Open Europe thought that they had to spin the results. He has now posted a German version of the post on the blog Ein europäischer Bürger.

According to Gary Finnegan, asking vague questions which invite predictable answers, and then concluding that the respondants support your political position is wrong.

Emerging synthesis?

In an opinion piece on Presseurop, Marco Zatterin reaches a synthesis. The European Union is plunging in the polls because more and more people feel the EU should be the one to solve the problems of the recession. As a matter of fact, three quarters of Europe is calling for more policy coordination.

Fewer people believe Europe is “a good thing” not because they’re against integration per se, but because they feel betrayed by the 27 and the way they’re handling it. They are demanding more, wrote Zatterin.

The article was originally published La Stampa (in Italian): Il tradimento dell’Europa.

Besides the Italian original and the English translation, Presseurop has published versions in Czech, Dutch, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish.

Detailed discussion

These are the four main strands I was able to find. Most of the instant news reporting fell into one of two categories, either focusing on the demand for more ‘economic governance’ at EU level, or highlighting the declining support for membership in the European Union.

A third line of thought found expression in scepticism regarding the value of opinion polls like Eurobarometer.

A fourth thread was presented in the La Stampa / Presseurop article available in ten languages. Marco Zatterin drew his conclusions about the great expectations of Europeans and the failed delivery by the EU institutions.

Our next stages require detailed study and discussion about individual questions and results reported in the Spring 2010 Eurobarometer. How much can we, in good conscience, read into the replies?

Ralf Grahn

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  1. A great overview.

    Marco Zatterin's take is interesting, and I would partly agree with him. It is hard for people to trust the EU if it shows such reluctance when it comes to showing solidarity with another member state (as was the big issue at the time of surveying). I would be reluctant to translate it into a desire for "more Europe" though - people support more cooperation in the same way that they support bipartisanship: because it's a good value. The first step is getting the Commission and the other institutions to start living up to their responsibility and roles. Particularly over the Roma issue. If it can't stand up for the equal treatment of EU citizens, then people will hardly place their trust in it.

    I'm looking forward to your analysis of the poll questions.

  2. Eurocentric,

    Yes, Zatterini might explain things missed by those who have rejoiced at sinking support for EU without thinking about the why's.

    I'll look at the Q & A's and see where they lead me, but it may need a few posts.


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