On 25 March 2017 it will be 60 years since Belgium, France, West-Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the Treaty of Rome, establishing the European Economic Community, the legal basis of today’s European Union (EU). To mark this, Ipsos is releasing a new global survey across 25 countries. The survey results suggest that the global public see some reasons to celebrate, with on average half considering the European project to have made Europe stronger. The findings also show that people almost twice as likely to say the project has more success than failures (by 34% to 19%), although around one in four say the positives and negatives cancel each other out. The survey was carried out among online adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. In the nine EU countries surveyed, people are most likely to praise the contributions the European project has made to the ease of travel and trade between European countries, and the peaceful relationships between the European nations.
However, past successes notwithstanding, Europeans are anxious about the future – a majority (57%) believe that the EU is heading in the wrong direction. Moreover, when looking at the individual country level, it appears that in Belgium, France and Italy, three countries that stood at the basis of the European project, many have doubts about its achievements and benefits.
European project a success?
- Over half (53%) people across the 25 countries worldwide think the European project has made Europe stronger, compared to 1 in 7 (14%) who think it has made Europe weaker. The proportion who think it made Europe stronger is somewhat lower in EU countries (46%) – with people in Belgium, Italy and France being the least positive.
- A third (34%) of people across the 25 countries believe that, taking everything into account, the European project over the past 60 years has had more successes than failures, compared to a fifth (19%) who think the opposite. In four countries people see more failures than successes – this includes Russia and founding Member States Belgium, France and Italy.
- Close to three quarters (73%) of people in the nine European countries are positive about the European project’s contribution to the ease of travel in Europe and close to two thirds (64%) are positive about its contribution to trade between European nations. A clear majority (58%) of Europeans approve of the positive contribution the European project made to the peaceful relationships between the European nations.
- Countries diverge in their opinion on the impact of the European project on standard of living – in Poland, Spain and Germany around half or more (56%, 48% and 47%, respectively) think this impact was positive; in Belgium, Italy and France, on the other hand, less than three in ten think this impact was positive (29%, 25% and 20%, respectively).
Europe on the wrong track?
- When asked if they would say things across the European Union are heading in the right direction or are off on the wrong track, nearly 6 out of 10 (57%) on average across the nine European countries think the European Union is off on the wrong track. This figure varies between 45% in Germany and 69% in Belgium.
- In most of the European countries, more people think the EU made the effects of the economic crisis in their country worse than think it made it better– exceptions are Hungary and Poland (both non-Eurozone countries).
- On average across all 25 countries, just over half of people (53%) agree that together the EU countries are stronger in solving global problems.
- Europeans themselves are divided: close to two thirds (64%) of people in Poland and 6 out of 10 of people in Spain and Germany (62% and 61% respectively) agree that together, the countries of the European Union are stronger in solving global problems; in contrast, in Italy, Belgium and France, only around a third share this opinion (35%, 34% and 32%, respectively).
Looking to the future
- Europeans think the EU’s most important priorities should be: 1) reducing poverty and social inequality, 2) fighting organised crime and terrorism, 3) creating economic growth and jobs, 4) reducing illegal immigration, and 5) fighting tax fraud and evasion. These top priorities are fairly similar across European countries.
- Close to two thirds (65%) of Europeans believe that the countries of the European Union should cooperate more to reduce illegal immigration from outside the EU. A similar proportion (64%) think the countries of the European Union should reduce the flow of refugees by acting to stop conflicts in their countries of origin.
- Majorities in all European countries are in favour of buying less energy from non-EU countries. Half (50%) of Europeans are in favour of directly electing the President of the European Commission, whilst most others are undecided.
Commenting on the findings, Gideon Skinner, Head of Politics, Ipsos MORI said:
“The 60th anniversary of the European project coincides with what many perceive as a time of crisis for the European Union (EU). The widespread feeling is that public trust in the EU is at an all-time low, after a severe economic crisis that still leaves its marks, the refugee crisis, a wave of terrorist attacks and Brexit. Our study shows, however, that people around the world do see some reasons to celebrate its achievements. Many across the world think it made Europe stronger, and in European countries, there appears to be consensus that the European project facilitated travel and trade between European country and benefited peaceful relations between countries. On the other hand, our study shows that Europeans themselves – although not per se against further European cooperation when it comes to subjects like reducing immigration – are relatively unhappy about the current status of the European project – perhaps related to disappointment over its impact on standard of living (especially since the financial crisis) and immigration, and a sense that it is out of touch. Particularly noteworthy are the negative attitudes to the achievements of the EU in Belgium, France and Italy, three countries that stood at the cradle of the European project. With elections coming up this year in France and possibly Italy, this mood of discontent could play a crucial role in 2017 and in the future of the European project in the years to come.“
- In total 18,021 adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and age 16-64 in all other countries, were interviewed between February 17th – March 3rd 2017. The survey was conducted in 25 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America).
- Between 500 and 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis via the Ipsos online panel. The sample was 1000+ in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United Stated of America. In all other countries, the sample was 500+. The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos’ use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.
- In countries where internet penetration is approximately 60% or higher the data output generally reflects the overall population. Of the 25 countries surveyed online, 17 yield results that are balanced to reflect the general population: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Great Britain and the United States. The 7 remaining countries surveyed – Brazil (58%), China (52%), Columbia (59%); India (19%), Mexico (44%), Peru (58%), South Africa (49%) and Turkey (51%) - have lower levels of internet connectivity and reflect online populations that tend to be more urban and have higher education/income than the general population.
- Where results do not sum to 100, this may be due to computer rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don't knows or not stated responses.
- Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.