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2 July 2017

Europeans united in solidarity

On 20 June, the UK think tank Chatham House published its findings from a survey examining popular perceptions of the European Union. The survey – which was unique in that it polled both members of the general public and representatives of the elite – revealed a consensus on the need for solidarity between EU Member States which bodes well for Europe’s future, but also a profound divide on the topic of immigration.

Exactly half of the general public and 77% of the elite agreed that ‘richer Member States should financially support poorer Member States’, and the majority of EU citizens were also proud of their European identity, even though the figure was much higher among the elite (81% compared to 58% among the general public).

Opinions on enlargement were also relatively homogeneous, with 41% of the elite and 47% of the general public believing that it had gone too far. The survey respondents were similarly united in their views on Turkey’s accession, with 62% of the general public and 49% of the elite being opposed to the idea.

Immigration is where the gulf between ordinary European citizens and Europe’s movers and shakers is widest; 57% of the elite believe that immigration has been good for their country, whereas a mere 25% of the general public agree with this statement. The survey also revealed that 55% of the general public hold the view that immigration is a strain on the welfare state, and 24% believe that no Member States should have to accept any refugees (compared to 10% of the elite).

Opinions also varied widely on the positive impacts of EU membership; the vast majority of Europe’s elite (71%) said that they had benefited from European integration, while only one third of the public concurred with this view.

The opinion poll was conducted between December 2016 and February 2017 in 10 EU Member States, and polled a representative sample of around 10 000 members of the public and 1 800 of Europe’s ‘elite’ (individuals in positions of influence from politics, the media, business and civil society).

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