Many Europeans Believe Life Has Become Worse Since Joining the EU

Published: Jan 24, 2019

The latest Financial Times/Harris Poll shows that except in Spain, majorities or pluralities of adults in the five largest European countries believe that life in their country has become worse since it became part of the European Union (EU)—not a vote of confidence for the EU. Spanish adults are the most positive about the effect that joining the EU has had on their country, with more than half (53%) stating that life has gotten better. In the other countries substantial proportions feel that life in their country has gotten worse since their countries joined the EU (Britain 52%, France 50%, Italy 47%, and Germany 44%). 

In Great Britain, a plurality of adults think that life would be better if their country left the EU. However, a majority in Spain and pluralities in France, Italy, and Germany think that life would be worse.

Attitudes to the EU are lukewarm at best and often negative. And yet, majorities or pluralities want to see the EU doing more, rather than less, on a broad range of activities and issues. Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll at Harris Interactive, states, “This suggests that majorities in the five countries support a strong European entity while often disliking what it does and how it operates.”

Some other highlights from the poll include:
  • Majorities or pluralities in all five EU countries think Turkey will eventually form part of the EU.
  • Majorities in most of the five EU countries and pluralities would like to see EU be more, rather than less active, especially regarding the environment, energy, and crime and security.
  • A majority of adults in Great Britain and a plurality in Germany are opposed to an EU army, while a majority in France and Italy and a plurality in Spain support it.
  • Majorities or pluralities in four of the five EU countries and in the U.S. favor harmonization of financial and trade regulations with the U.S. However in Germany, there is a slender plurality that is opposed. The biggest surprise may be the 2–1 majority in France that favors this.
  • Few people, except perhaps the 31% in Italy, think that EU regulations have had a positive impact on business in their countries. In the
  •  EU countries except for France, pluralities believe they have had a negative impact.
  • There is no consensus on the likely impact of a new EU constitution. A majority in Italy and a substantial plurality in Spain think it would have a positive impact. A large plurality in Great Britain thinks it would have a negative impact.
  • Only in Italy does a plurality not think that the U.S. is the greatest threat to global stability.

The FT/Harris Poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive among a total of 6,772 adults (aged 16 and over) within France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States and adults (aged 18 and over) in Italy between  February 28th and March 12th, 2007.

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