A few weeks ahead of the make-or-break UK referendum on whether to leave the European Union, several surveys hint that while Europeans are against Brexit, they are increasingly divided, and doubtful, on the role of the EU.
Views on the EU vary dramatically depending on the member states, according to a Pew Research survey.
Poland and Hungary, despite current tensions with Brussels from their Eurosceptic governments, have the highest percentage of favourable views of the EU, with 72 percent and 61 percent respectively.
Results are more balanced in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
However, crisis-stricken Greece has the lowest, with 27 percent of favourable views while France, with 61 percent unfavourable views, is the second most hostile nation, of the 10 surveyed.
The trends this survey highlight are bound to worry Brussels. According to an in-house analysis of the survey, since 2015 “there has been a double-digit drop [of favourable views] in France (down 17 percentage points) and Spain (16 points), and single-digit declines in Germany (eight points), the United Kingdom (seven points) and Italy (six points).”
The only silver lining the EU may find in the Pew survey lays in the answers of the younger generation. Europeans aged 18 to 34, the survey has found, “are more favourable towards the EU than people 50 and older, in six of the 10 nations surveyed.”
The generation gap is most pronounced in France – 25 percentage points – with 56 percent of young people but only 31 percent of older people having a positive opinion of the EU. There are similar generation gaps of 19 points in the UK, 16 points in the Netherlands, 14 points in Poland and Germany, and 13 points in Greece.
At the root of the dissatisfaction
The survey is clear: at the root of the disaffection are the EU’s handlings of both the refugee crisis and of economic issues.
Regarding the former, 94 percent of Greeks, 88 percent of Swedes, 77 percent of Italians and 67 percent of Germans disapprove of the EU’s management of the refugee situation.
Meanwhile 92 percent of Greeks, two-thirds of French, Spanish and Italians, and 55 percent of Britons disapprove of the way the EU has dealt with European economic issues.
Accordingly, the views on the future of the EU are grim when it comes to creating “ever closer union” that the 1957 Rome Treaty mentions. Across the 10 nations surveyed, 42 percent think some powers should be returned to national governments. This proportion reaches 68 percent in Greece and 65 percent in the UK.
Only one-in-five surveyed want their national governments to transfer more power to the EU and proponents of the status quo amount to 27 percent of the surveyed citizens.
No European wish for Brexit
Euroscepticism maybe on the rise, but Europeans do not wish to see the UK leave the EU, nor do they want to follow its course: 70 percent of the Europeans surveyed by the Pew Research Center think a Brexit would be a bad thing for the EU.
A TNS survey conducted in June in the UK and nine other EU members states has found that support from these countries for Bremain is high. Figures range from the 60s in France, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic for instance, to 70 percent in Ireland and 79 percent in Germany. In the UK, the survey found that among people with the intention to vote in the June 23 referendum, 41 percent would vote remain, 43 percent would support Brexit and 16 percent were still undecided.
The TNS survey also found that, if a similar referendum was organised in the Netherlands and Denmark, the results would respectively be for 49 percent and 54 percent to remain, 33 percent and 29 percent to leave, and 18 percent and 17 percent undecided.