The cost-of-living crisis triggered by the Ukraine war, the energy crunch, surging inflation and the coronavirus pandemic has become the greatest worry for European Union citizens, according to a new Eurobarometer that shows 45% of respondents are currently having "some" or "a lot" difficulties with their personal income.
The poll speaks of a "polycrisis mood" across the continent.
Additionally, 46% of Europeans admit their standards of living have already decreased as a result of the mounting crises while 39% expect to see a decline sometime this year.
Just 14% do not anticipate any sort of change or impact.
The countries where the perceived drop in living standards has been most pronounced are Cyprus (70% of respondents say standards have "already been reduced"), Greece (66%), Malta (65%), France (62%) and Portugal (57%), the report shows.
People in Nordic countries are the most comfortable with their present income – 87% in Sweden, 86% in Denmark and 84% in Finland –, while only 21% in Greece and Bulgaria are satisfied with their earnings.
More worryingly, 30% of respondents admit they struggle to pay their monthly bills "from time to time" and 9% say this is the case "most of the time." Once again, Greece and Bulgaria report the greatest share of the population going through this kind of hardship, with 86% and 64% respectively.
Overall, 56% of Europeans express dissatisfaction with the measures taken at the EU level to tackle the rising costs of living, while 64% feel the same about the actions of their national governments.
In total, 93% of poll participants say they are worried about the cost-of-living crisis, including surging food and energy prices. Poverty and social exclusion (82%), climate change (81%) and the possible spread of the Ukraine war to neighbouring countries (81%) also represent sources of anxiety among EU citizens.
Notably, nearly three-quarters confess to being worried about the "risk of a nuclear incident," a scenario fuelled by inflammatory rhetoric from the Kremlin.
Despite these widespread fears and struggles, European support for Ukraine remains steadfast: 74% of EU citizens approve of the EU's response to the war as opposed to 23% who disapprove.
Approval of the EU's assistance to Ukraine is overwhelming among respondents in the northern region: 97% in Sweden, 95% in Finland, 93% in the Netherlands and 92% in Denmark.
Only in Slovakia (49%), Greece (48%) and Bulgaria (48%) this support falls below the 50% threshold.
When asked about the war's broader implications, 65% of all those surveyed say they are "not very" or "not at all" confident that their personal lives will continue unchanged.
The Eurobarometer, released by the European Parliament on Thursday morning, is based on more than 26,000 face-to-face interviews conducted between October and November in all 27 member states.
Besides cost-of-living and Ukraine, the results also touch upon the EU as a whole, its institutions and the 2024 parliamentary elections.
The share of those who have a positive image of the EU has dropped from 52% in May to 47% in November, with large variations across countries. At the same time, 62% see their country's membership in the bloc as a "good thing" as opposed to a small minority (10%) who call it a "bad thing."
Still, over half of respondents (51%) say things in the EU are going in the "wrong direction," with just under a third saying things are going in the "right direction."
Pessimism runs even deeper within national boundaries: 62% of EU citizens say things in their home country are going in the "wrong direction."
In an interesting twist, 63% of participants claim things in their personal lives are going in the "right direction," reflecting a stark dissonance between the home environment and the political landscape.
Those in Luxembourg (82%), Ireland (80%) and Sweden (80%) are the most satisfied about the current state of their personal lives, while those in Romania (49%), Poland (47%) and Portugal (46%) are more mixed.
A majority of Europeans (57%) are optimistic about the EU's future, with 39% describing themselves as fairly or very pessimistic. France, Cyprus and Greece are the only thee member states where a pessimistic outlook represents the majority opinion.