How 17 advanced economies view the EU and its response to COVID-19

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A European Union flag in Milan, Italy, during a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus in March 2020 (Mairo Cinquetti / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Majorities in much of Western Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region have a favorable opinion of the European Union, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 17 advanced economies. But perceptions of the EU’s response to the coronavirus outbreak are mixed, and while many in Europe say the economic relief from the Brussels-based institution has been sufficient, substantial shares in most countries believe that he did not go far enough.

Opinions on the EU are generally favorable, but assessments of how it has handled the pandemic are lukewarm

A median of 63% among the 17 audiences surveyed rate the EU positively. Among the eight Member States surveyed, opinions are most favorable in Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands, where at least 70% have a positive opinion of the EU.

These three countries also have the most positive assessment in the region of the EU’s response to the pandemic; about six in ten or more say the organization has done a good job managing the coronavirus outbreak. In comparison, a median of only 48% across all 17 audiences agrees with the EU’s response.

This analysis focuses on public opinion in the European Union, including views on the EU’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. For non-U.S. Data, the report relies on nationally representative surveys of 16,254 adults from March 12 to May 26, 2021, in 16 audiences. All surveys were conducted by telephone with adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

In the United States, we surveyed 2,596 American adults from February 1 to 7, 2021. All of those who participated in the U.S. survey are members of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel recruited by the United States. bias random sampling of residential addresses. This way almost all adults have a chance to be selected. The survey is weighted to be representative of the adult United States population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other categories. Learn more about the ATP methodology.

To take into account the fact that some audiences refer to the coronavirus differently, in South Korea, the investigation asked questions about “the Corona epidemic19”. In Japan, the investigation asked questions about the “new coronavirus epidemic”. In Greece, the investigation asked questions about the “coronavirus pandemic”. In Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Taiwan, the survey asked about “the COVID-19 epidemic”. All other investigations used the term “coronavirus epidemic”.

Here are the questions used for the report, along with the answers. See our methodological database for more information on survey methods outside the United States For respondents in the United States, see our survey methodology in the United States. Information on the categorization of populist parties can be found here.

Although majorities in Germany, France and Belgium have a positive assessment of the EU as a whole, only around half or less believe it has handled the epidemic well. Greeks are the least likely among those polled to have a favorable opinion of the EU overall, although a majority of Greeks say the EU has responded well to the pandemic.

EU economic the response to the pandemic generally receives mixed reviews from European countries surveyed. When thinking about the economic consequences of the coronavirus, a median of 48% says the EU’s relief efforts have been about right, compared with 40% who say they haven’t gone far enough and just 6% who think they have gone too far. Here again, the Swedes and the Dutch have some of the most positive assessments of the EU, while the Greeks consider the EU’s economic efforts to be insufficient.

Outside the EU, many express a positive opinion of the institution, while Canadians and Americans also rate the EU’s response to the epidemic positively. About six in ten Americans have a positive opinion of the EU and say it has done a good job responding to the pandemic. But relatively few in the Asia-Pacific region approve of the EU’s handling of the outbreak. Only 39% in Australia, 31% in South Korea and 21% in Taiwan think that the EU has reacted well.

Positive evaluations from the EU among those who approve of its response to the coronavirus

The feeling that the EU has handled the pandemic well is linked to the positive assessment of the EU in each audience surveyed. In France, for example, 83% of those who think the EU has handled the epidemic well view the institution favorably, compared to only 38% who think the EU has mismanaged the epidemic. Differences in favor of the EU based on how people perceive its response to the pandemic tend to be larger in most EU countries surveyed, compared to audiences in the Asia-Pacific region.

Likewise, people in the eight EU countries surveyed who positively rate the EU’s economic response to the epidemic are much more likely to express a positive opinion of the organization than those who believe that the efforts of economic relief did not go far enough.

Despite more mixed assessments of the EU’s response to the coronavirus, overall EU opinion has been at its highest in recent years in several countries. Favorable views towards the EU in Italy and Sweden have increased significantly since last year, with two-thirds or more in each country now viewing the EU positively. Japan and South Korea have also seen similar increases, with Japan falling from a historic low of 47% in 2020 to 61% this year.

Favorable opinions on the European Union, 2004 to 2021

On the other hand, there have also been notable drops in EU public approval. Belgium and Germany both saw a significant drop in EU approval, with Germany dropping from a peak of 73% in 2020 to 63% this year. There was a similar drop in the UK, where the institution’s ratings peaked in 2020 after the country officially left the EU, though around half still have a positive opinion.

Among the audiences surveyed, there are considerable variations in EU approval by age, education and political groups. Adults aged 18 to 29 are significantly more likely to approve the EU than those aged 65 and over in 10 audiences, including the UK, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. In France, for example, 80% of young adults approve of the EU, while only 57% of older adults say the same, a difference of 23 percentage points.

Supporters of right-wing parties are generally less favorable to the EU

Similar differences can be observed between education levels in 11 of the audiences surveyed. Those with a post-secondary degree are more likely to endorse the EU. In the UK, for example, 65% of people with higher levels of education are in favor of the EU, compared to 46% of those with a high school diploma or less.

Ideology and party support are often linked to the evaluation of the EU within the member countries studied. In general, supporters of right-wing populist parties include less favorable to the EU. This trend can be observed in Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany. For example, while 68% of those who do not support Alternative for Germany (AfD) approve of the EU, only 41% of AfD supporters say the same. The reverse pattern can be seen among center and left populist parties in Europe, where supporters of these parties are more likely to have a positive assessment of the EU.

Ideology is also tied to views on the EU outside the bloc. People on the left of the political spectrum are significantly more likely than those on the right to rate the EU positively in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In the United States, Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents have a more positive view of the EU (78%) than Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (46%).

Note: These are the questions used for the report, along with the answers and its US methodology.

Janell Fetterolf is an associate researcher focusing on global attitudes at the Pew Research Center.

Nicolas kent is a former research assistant specializing in global attitudes research at the Pew Research Center.


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