NEWS

Europeans eager to go to the polls, but in a reactionary mood

europeans-eager-to-go-to-the-polls-but-in-a-reactionary-mood

Sixty-eight percent of European Union citizens intend to vote at next month's elections for European Parliament, with Greece, at 71 percent, being among four member states with the highest expected turnout, behind Italy (77pct), Denmark (76 pct) and Germany (73 pct), a new report has found.

Published on Friday, the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation's “Europe's Choice” report, however, also shows that the majority of voters will be turning up at the polling station in order to express their dissatisfaction with rather than support for a specific party or policy.

In Greece, 36.7 percent of respondents said they are not at all happy with current government policy, 34.5 percent are somewhat unhappy and just 18.4 are satisfied. Similar levels of dissatisfaction are recorded in Sweden, Hungary, France and Great Britain.

Greeks are also overwhelmingly unhappy at how democracy works in their country, at a rate of 69.5 percent against an EU average of 46.6 percent. Moreover, 61.1 percent of Greeks are entirely dissatisfied with democracy in the EU. Nevertheless, 49.1 percent said that despite its problems, democracy is the best form of governance and 28.4 percent strongly lean towards this opinion. Sweden, Denmark and Austria showed similar trends.

The survey also examined political and social beliefs, rating how left or right wing respondents are on a scale of 0 (left) to 10 (right). Here, 29.4 percent of Greeks said they consider themselves as belonging to the left or center-left, 30.1 percent are centrists and 30.7 percent are on the center-right or right. The averages for the other surveyed countries were 30.2 percent on the left or center-left, 22.6 percent in the center and 34.3 percent on the center-right or right.

“Europe needs working majorities in the new European Parliament. Mobilizing the predominantly pro-European center is an important prerequisite for this,” said Aart De Geus, chairman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung executive board, commenting on the results.

The results were also interesting with regards to what extent European voters are influenced by populism, again on a scale of 0-10. Greece has the highest score at 4.23, followed by Spain at 4.13 and France at 4.04, compared against an average of 3.89.

“The stronger the populist and extremist margins become, the more this forces the mainstream parties to reach a consensus. If the mainstream parties fail to build this bridge, negative majorities may lead to self-imposed deadlock and stagnation,” warns Robert Vehrkamp, a democracy expert and co-author of the study.

In terms of the issues that are foremost on voters' minds, migration is high on the list, followed by EU social spending and subsidies. On the first issue, 39 percent of Greeks would like to see less EU involvement and 38 percent want more. On the issue of EU social spending, 52 percent want more and 17 percent want less, while 67 percent of Greeks also want to see EU subsidies go up.

The answers, according to the authors of the report, point to Greece as being among the more pro-EU nations in the bloc, as on all three issues they were in favor of more involvement from Brussels.

Asked whether they consider their country's membership in the EU as positive, however, only 19.8 percent of Greeks were upbeat. That said, 30.5 percent say they lean strongly towards this point of view, though 23.2 percent are undecided and 15 percent think it is a bad thing. Nearly 10 percent say there is nothing positive about Greece's membership in the bloc.

The highest rates of support for EU membership are recorded in Poland, Spain and Germany, and the lowest in France and Italy.

The 170-page report covers the EU's 12 most populous member states, including Greece, and presents data from a survey by the YouGov institute carried out in January on 23,725 people, of which 2,027 were Greeks.