ECR Survey: Citizens’ Trust in EU Institutions Declining

Politics - April 26, 2024

Voter confidence in the European Union’s institutions has been steadily declining in recent years, according to a recently published poll commissioned by ECR. 

The highest percentage of respondents – almost 40% – said they would like Member States to have more power, rather than European Union bodies. One of the areas where a significant percentage of voters believe member states should have a greater say is migration. Although more people said that migration policies should be the preserve of the European Commission than said that Member States should have more power than they currently have on this issue, the percentages are roughly equal – 41% and 40% respectively. Overwhelming majorities of right-wing voters in the two European political groups European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID), say that member states should be given more powers than they currently have. Most voters in these two MEP groups also believe that member states should have decisive power over migration policies. If we look at it by country, this trend is more pronounced in Eastern European countries and France. These trends have been analysed both by geographical region and by the electorate of each of the political groups currently represented in the European Parliament – EPP (Group of the European People’s Party – Christian Democrats) , S&D (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament) , Renew ( Renew Europe) , ECR, ID, European Greens, and United Left (Gauche Unitaire Europeenne/Gauche Verte Nordique) – GUE/NGL.

The data was compiled by five geographical regions: Germany, France, the Eastern countries – (Baltic States, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia), the Nordic countries – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland and Austria) and the Southern countries – Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Malta and Cyprus. The survey was carried out on behalf of the ECR between the 28th of March and the 8th of April using the CAWI method on a total sample of 5000 people in all 27 Member States. 

Confidence in European Union bodies is falling 

Most respondents to the survey believe that European bodies should be stripped of their powers and devolved to member states – 37%, while 25% opt for the opposite, saying nations should have less power. 17% of respondents to the survey think the situation is fine as it is now, while 21% say they don’t know how it could be better.

Looking at the survey data by party, the overwhelming majority of ECR voters – 63% and ID voters – 62% believe that member states should be given more power in their relationship with the EU than they currently have. GUE/NGL is in the middle with 38% of the electorate. At the other end of the scale, the lowest percentages of voters who agree with such a hypothesis are among S&D voters – 24% and Greens – 23%.  More than half of EPP and Renew voters think the European Union should have more power or that the current situation is ok. EPP and Renew with 33 and 31 respectively. In the case of these parties, the percentages of voters who think the EU should have more power are roughly equal to those who would opt for more powers for Member States: 33% respectively 31% versus 32% respectively 35%. However, the percentages of those who want to keep the status quo are significant – 23% EPP and 22% Renew.

Totally different is the situation of ECR voters, 63% of whom think the EU’s powers should be reduced and only 22% think they should be increased, and only 7% think it is fine as it is now. The undecided percentage is 8%. The trend is the same within the ID electorate, where 62% want more power for member states and only 13% for the EU, and 9% agree with the current situation. As for a future coalition to appoint members of the European Commission, overall, most European voters – 40% – prefer the current ruling coalition in the European Parliament, which brings together S&D, EPP and Renew. However, one in four would like a centre-right coalition of the EPP, ECR and ID. Also significant is the percentage of undecided, which accounts for around a third – 32% . 

 68% of voters want a coalition: ECR, ID and EPP

This option of a coalition of ECR, ID and EPP is preferred by the overwhelming majority of ECR voters – 68%. Only 15% would like a centre-left or centre coalition to appoint members of the European Commission. The vast majority of S&D voters – 80%, but also Gue/Ngl – 63% , European Greens – 58% and Renew – 50% would like the parties that have led the EU so far to continue to lead in the next mandate. In the middle of the ranking is the EPP, whose electorate wants this just over 30%. 

At the other end of the scale, the majority of ECR and ID voters want a coalition that includes the EPP as well as these parties (68% – ECR and 62% – ID). However, the proportion of undecided voters is significant – over a third (32%). The highest number of undecideds is in Eastern European countries – 40 percentage- but France is close to this percentage with 37 percentage and Germany is over a third (31 percentage). The S&D – EPP – Renew coalition has the most supporters in the southern countries, especially Italy and Spain, where they account for half of the voters (50% and 51% respectively). Strong split in views on who should decide on migration policies; Conservatives choose Member States Overall, the percentage of respondents who say the European Commission should have the most important role in migration policies is almost equal to those who think Member States should decide on migration policies: 41% versus 40%. A further 19% were undecided, saying they did not know who should have the final say… 

By country, the highest percentages of respondents who preferred Member States to this question were the Eastern countries – 57% and France – 52%, while the European Commission was preferred by most respondents in Italy – 61%, Spain – 59% and the Southern countries – 58%.

By party, on migration, the European Commission is preferred by the majority of S&D voters – 63%, the European Greens – 58% and Renew – 52%. The GUE/NGL and EPP electorates are also split on this issue, but most voters in these parties prefer the EC to make the decisions on migration (51% and 49% respectively). On the other hand, the majority of ID voters, as well as ECR voters, would like Member States to have more decision-making power on migration. The percentages of ID and ECR voters who said this were 64% and 58% respectively.

More than half of Europeans have a negative view of EU migration policies

Within the ECR electorate, the percentage of those who said the European Commission should play a greater role in this area was 33%, and the percentage of those who preferred not to answer – 9%. Dissatisfaction with the European Union’s migration policies among citizens in the 27 EU countries is also reflected in another survey published two months ago by Euronews. According to the survey, more than half of Europeans have a negative view of it, and 71% would like stricter border controls. According to the poll, only 16% of those surveyed rated these policies positively, while 32% had neither a positive nor a negative opinion. In all countries surveyed, negative opinions outweigh positive ones: the French (62%), Austrians (60%) and Hungarians (58%) are the most critical, while Denmark (26%), Romania (27%) and Finland (32%) have the lowest rates of negative opinions.

This year’s European Parliament elections take place between the 6th and the 9th of June. The European Parliament is the world’s only directly elected transnational assembly. MEPs decide on laws that affect the lives of EU citizens (from supporting the economy to fighting poverty and climate change to security issues).