EP Eurobarometer

Nine months after the last Parlemeter, it is necessary to assess the perception that European citizens have of the European Parliament and the policies and values which the institution must defend. The results show a stabilisation of the key indicators, with a very slight decrease.

The previous Parlemeter had been conducted during a period favourable to the visibility of the European Parliament: upcoming European elections, hearings of the Commissioners appointed that had a strong impact in some Member States and entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

In the political sphere, it is important to remember that, since the survey conducted in early 2010, national elections (legislative or presidential) or regional elections have been held in 14 countries of the EU.

The international economic context is still deeply marked by the financial, economic and social crisis. It has now taken on a new dimension, with the difficulties of the euro area and the measures that have resulted, including the establishment of the European Financial Stability Fund and the European stabilisation mechanism.

In the last 9 months, the question of solidarity between Member States mobilised thinking on Europe, with public opinion focused on the question: should there be solidarity between Member States? If yes, how far and in what context (European semester, reform of the stability pact, EU Perspective 2020, etc.)?

At the same time, the Member States have addressed the crisis with very different rhythms. The latest Eurostat statistics clearly show this. This political and economic environment must therefore be kept in mind when reading the results. Undoubtedly, this political and economic environment played a role in the responses of citizens polled.

A legislative activity that is not sufficiently felt by the Europeans as having an impact on their daily lives could be added to the general context described above, although in 2010 important issues for all Europeans have emerged: the protection of airline passenger data (SWIFT), food additives, food labelling, enhanced information for medicines, packet control and financial oversight, hedge funds, the new mobile phone tariff reductions (roaming), etc.

As in past surveys, the analysis of the results presented in this note demonstrates that the European averages should be analysed in the light of national results. Indeed, the EU averages are weighted according to the official European population figures published by Eurostat or national statistics institutes. When we observe a variation of the EU27 average between two periods, we should take into consideration the recent developments in each Member State but also the weight that this Member State represents in the overall EU27 average. It should be remembered that the results of the seven most populated Member States accounted for about three quarters of the EU27 average.

Media recall. Six months after the European elections, 62% of the respondents said they had read in the newspapers, seen on the Internet or heard on the radio or television something about the European Parliament. Today, 59% (-3 percentage points) have this media recall as against 39% who do not have it. The difference between the country where the media recall is the strongest and the one where it is the weakest is 36 percentage points.

Beyond a quasi stability of the EU average, we observe that media recall tends to slightly decline in 19 of the 27 Member States but to remain the same or increase in the 8 other countries.

Limited Knowledge. At EU27 level, the subjective level of information does not vary significantly. Thus, 28% of the respondents feel well informed about the activities of the European Parliament as against 30% nine months ago (-2 percentage points). Again, this survey reveals strong differences between Member States, reaching 26 percentage points.

In the responses by Member State, we observe significant differences between the two surveys, from +10 in Austria to -9 in Spain.

More than two thirds (69%, +1) of Europeans continue to feel badly informed about the activities of the European Parliament.

Mode of operation. Today, 42% (+9 compared to EB 68) of Europeans know that their MEPs sit in the European Parliament according to their political affinities. 38% (-6) believe that they sit according to their nationality.

At the end of 2007 (EB 68), only 33% gave the correct answer while 44% answered incorrectly.

Contrasted image. The image that Europeans have of the European Parliament did not change a lot. The image of the institution is contrasting and large differences can be observed between Member States. As we saw during the previous survey, a certain tendency towards polarisation is confirmed. The answers are more pronounced in one or other direction.

A more important role for the Parliament. If we refer to the survey conducted nine months ago, the results are quite similar even if the enhanced role of the European Parliament slightly decreases between the two surveys (EB73 January-February 2010): 52% are in favour of an increased role of the European Parliament as against 55% seven months after the European elections.

However, comparing this last survey with the one conducted at the end of 2007 (EB68) actually highlights that, as for the image, the opinions on the role of the EP tend to be assertive.

Values. The hierarchy of priorities remains the same as in the previous survey. Protection of human rights is what Europeans want to see defended as a priority by the European Parliament (60%). Equality between men and women and freedom of speech come in second position, as last time, with 36% (=).

The only significant change concerns solidarity between Member States of the EU (35%, +5) which comes in 4th position. Is this a consequence of the crisis or not? Is it a concept of the European Union? It is difficult to answer these questions.

Crisis. The question of priority policies is taken from the previous survey EB/EP (EB 74.1 ‘The Europeans and the crisis’). Since the fieldwork was done two months ago, the results can still be used in this note.

They are essential to better understand the expectations of Europeans at the end of 2010, a year which was marked by such an economic, financial and social crisis.

The consequences of the economic, social, financial and monetary crisis surely influenced the high increase given to the priority ‘tackling poverty and social exclusion’ (52%, +8 percentage points in 7 months).

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