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.


  1. It’s interesting that you’ve effectively called me insane. It’s not insane to believe that (necessary) democratic reform of the EU is futile and that as a project it is fundamentally flawed. It just happens to be a view that is on a different side of the argument to yourself.

    I do have sympathy with your view on Euromyths that keep doing the rounds.(I’m not aware that I’ve peddled any and am happy to being corrected on any facts I get wrong) They are actually more helpful to the pro-EU cause than you appear to appreciate. They're counterproductive as they make for a useful stick with which beat Eurosceptics, and this is…er…precisely what you’ve done here. It’s why I (along with Nosemonkey) was more than eager to tear strips of Iain Dale when he regurgitated the ‘EU ban dozen eggs’ bollocks a couple of weeks ago.

    Cursing and myths are not confided to the Euroscepetics either, aside from the deceptions deployed in the yes campaign in 1975, and the ‘it’s just a tidying up exercise’ (Lisbon) I have often to endure the oft repeated, ‘little Englander’, ‘xenophobic’ or :I didn’t know you were racist’ comments when arguing against our membership of the EU.

    Your penultimate paragraph is absolutely spot-on though, whatever our views it’s clear that the political class in the UK cannot continue to wilfully ignore the gulf that exists between them and the voters forever.

    P.S. And while we’re on the subject of facts, a note from the pendant office; those in the UK haven’t been Crown subjects since 1983.

  2. The Boiling Frog,

    Having been called arrogant for the 'elitist' statement about frontrunners (the sociological fact that better educated people in better positions tend to be more pro-EU), I have NOT retaliated by implying that you are insane.

    Even if I made the mistake of minimising the problem for the EU while making the contrastg with the unique atmosphere in the UK, the Eurobarometer results continue to show that the European Union needs profound democratic reform, regardless of how utopistic it looks in your eyes.

    I have somewhat unceremoniously lumped you together with some other specimens of the Angloblogosphere, describing their EU entries as ranging from legitimate criticism to pure Euromyths.

    I admit that I did not have the time and energy to fine tune the 'burden of guilt'.

    I imagine that many of your comrades in arms have intimated that they are EUSSR subjects since the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, but how do you describe yourself and your compatriots since 1983 domestically?

  3. And poor old Cranmer has been missing since the 15th June.

    Can't your mob keep up.

  4. Anonymous,

    Thank you for your remark. I did not pay particular attention to the dates of the links I sampled, but I take note of his (temporary or temporal?) disappearance.

    Had my ambitions been higher, I should have dealt more extensively with the columnists and their comments sections, and I should perhaps have selected the blogs on grounds of influence, but this post was not intended to become a research piece on the EU related Angloblogosphere.

  5. Mr. Grahnlaw,

    it's fair to disagree with anyone, but you can just not suggest anyone has "facts and arguments" right or wrong without providing a base.

    FAZ made the exact same case as Open Europe today, by accusing the Commission of giving a distorted picture of what their Eurobarometer poll shows. ("Ein bisschen mehr Europa", p14).

    The recent Eurobarometer for example shows that only 50% of Germans consider EU membership “a good thing”, which is down 10 points in less than a year... Same evolution for France and the Netherlands.

    Pieter Cleppe
    Open Europe

  6. The disadvantage with this sort of poll (that measures satisfaction and trust), is that it seems to automatically show proof in X's mind that the public will support Y. It seems to me that interpreting these polls is almost by definition "spin".

    It just shows that there is plenty of room for debate and that people are open to national, European and international solutions. The public would be better served by people debating different ideas rather than trying to divine a course of action or mandate for action from opinion poll statistics. Not that we're likely to get such a debate, since statistics make for easy partisan writing, and don't argue back.

  7. Pieter Cleppe,

    Thank you for your comment. In my view the Commission was selective in what it chose to highlight in its press release, like corporations - private and public - tend to do, rather than distortive of facts as Open Europe has argued.

    Open Europe has played the sophist, exaggerating the importance of the choice of words in its heavy criticism of the Commission's press release.

    Since the Eurobarometer findings have been published, for everyone to check, the argument of your organisation has an artificial ring to it.

    I admit that I did not go into detailed arguments of when and how Open Europe has been selective, partial and tendentious in the mass of press summaries, statements and position papers it has published during these last years.

    First of all, I have discussed some positions taken by Open Europe earlier on this blog.

    Second, I summarised my view, based on daily reading of what Open Europe does.

    Third, I referred readers to see the contents and the tone of the daily press summaries I described in less than flattering terms.

    Fourth, Open Europe, despite being a 'munitions factory' for much anti-EU campaigning in the UK, was only a stage on the road towards the main argument of the blog post: the unique lack of support for EU membership in the UK.

    Fifth, Open Europe's statement that the level of trust in the European Union is sinking is correct, directly based on the Eurobarometer findings. However, this did in no way require the Commission-bashing Open Europe engaged in.

    Rest assured that after dealing with the unique gulf between the rulers and the ruled in the UK, my intention has been to write a blog post on the general level of trust in the European Union among EU citizens.

  8. Eurocentric,

    I already gave some of my background reasoning in my reply to Pieter Cleppe, before I saw your comment.

    The role of opinion polls is very interesting. Especially in the USA, politicians are accused of campaigning with an excessive focus on opinion polls.

    Government is naturally somewhat different, because representative democracy introduces a margin of 'ennobling' of public sentiment into working policies. (What I question is how wide a margin should be allowed, here with regard to the UK - EU relationship.)

    Paradoxically, the lack of direct political accountability of the Commission (part of the executive) may actually speak in favour of polling as a means to gauge public opinion. A compensatory measure, of sorts.

    In my view, the regular Eurobarometer opinion polls are a good and necessary exercise, even if the questions are quite general.

    I think that Open Europe fell into the trap of wanting to bash the Commission at the expense of the obvious finding they wanted to underline: the low and sinking level of trust in the European Union.

    However, Open Europe directs it criticism at the Commission, because it consistently propagates the legends of 'Brussels' and 'unelected bureaucrats', even if they and we know that the Commission works in an institutional setting established by the member states of the EU. (This I already remarked on in a comment to Mr Persson, who reused the Open Europe arguments in his EUobserver column.)

    Let us say that discussion is the means to arrive from spin to reasonable evaluation.

    After the unique case of the UK, my intention has been to write a blog post on the meaning of the Eurobarometer findings for the EU as a whole.

  9. "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. "

    The EU is complete bollocks. Evaluate that.

  10. Anonymous,

    You are entitled to hold your simplistic views, but the security and prosperity of Europeans require more nuanced discourse and arrangements.


Due deluge of spam comments no more comments are accepted.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.