One of the most profound criticisms of the EU that it remains, even at this late date, primarily an elite project. The democratic deficit has grown, according to the latest Pew Research multi-country poll.
The Pew Research survey covered ten countries that represent 80% of the EU28 population and 82% of the region's GDP. The poll surveyed nearly 10.5k people between April 4 and May 12.
It found that 2/3 of the both the British and the Greeks want some powers that have been surrendered to Brussels to return to national authorities. Significant minorities in other key countries agree. Across the EU, 42% want Brussels to return power to the individual countries. A little less than a fifth was to give Brussels more power and 27% favor the status quo.
It seems ironic, two countries that have the highest support for the EU are out of favor with Brussels. Pew Research survey found 72% of the Poland and 61% of the Hungarians have a favorable view of the EU. Across the region, only 51% share that opinion. Greece, which due to the link between solvency and sovereignty, has seen the greatest erosion of national sovereignty, understandably holds the EU in the lowest esteem. Only 27% have a favored view of the EU.
Moreover, in five of the six nations that were surveyed in 2015 and 2016, the EU's standing has fallen. In France and Spain, there were double-digit declines (17 and 16 percentage points respectively). In Germany, the EU's favorable rating, fell eight percentage points, seven in the UK and six in Italy.
Part of what is happening is a deterioration of support by older age cohorts. People aged 18-24 are more favorable toward the EU than people 50 and older in six of the 10 countries surveyed. The gap is the largest in France. There 56% of the younger cohort have a positive view of the EU compared with 31% of the older cohort. That 25 point gap is the largest but is followed closely by the UK ( a 19-point gap). The gap is 16 points in the Netherlands, 14 points in Poland and Germany, and 13 points in Greece.
There appear to be two issues that are fueling the deterioration of attitudes toward the EU, refugee/immigration and the economy. In every country Pew surveyed, a large majority disapproved of how Brussels dealt with refugees. Greece and Italy are the front lines, and the high disapproval is not surprising at 94% and 77% respectively. Sweden is a bit surprising. Its disapproval is second only to Greece (88%). The Dutch and the German are the least disapproving at 65% and 67% respectively.
In none of the ten countries surveyed does a majority approve of the EU's handling of the economy. A little more than 90% the Greeks disapprove, as do roughly 2/3 of those in France, Italy and Spain. Poland and Germany show a 47% approval of the EU's economic policy, followed by 42% in the Netherlands.
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