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Shifting Attitudes to the EU

- July 31, 2012

“Kevin O’Rourke has a new paper”:http://www.tcd.ie/iiis/documents/discussion/pdfs/iiisdp364.pdf which talks _inter alia_ about how public opinion constrains the options of EU decision makers in the current crisis.

bq. The first point to note is that the Euro project started with less public support than the Single Market project enjoyed in 1992. Even worse, it started out with negative net ratings in Germany, its most important member, and this imposes constraints on what the German government is able to do to maintain Eurozone stability. … Second, there is a major class cleavage as regards attitudes towards the European Union, which emerged strongly in the French and Irish referenda of 2005 and 2008: the better educated, the more highly skilled and the more affluent were significantly more likely to vote in favour of the proposed treaties than the less well-educated, the less skilled and the poor … support for EMU is positively correlated with support for both globalization and the EU, and … it is higher among the better educated, white collar workers, and retirees. On the other hand, it is lower among the unemployed, and those who consider themselves to be on the right politically.

bq. Interestingly, pensioners are not significantly more likely to favour EMU in Germany, but are very significantly more likely to do so in France. … attitudes towards the European Union have become more negative during the current crisis. Respondents are less likely to report that EU membership is a good thing, for example. … Net sentiment is still comfortably positive elsewhere in the Union as well (if much less so), but still there has been some deterioration everywhere. More dramatic has been the deterioration in trust in the European Union, the European Central Bank, and (albeit less so) in the European Commission. This has been sharp and rather general. Net trust in the EU is negative in both France and Germany, which is not that unusual, and almost zero in Ireland, which is unusual. Importantly, these data only go as far as Spring 2010, and thus do not take into account the impact of the bailout which occurred in November of that year. What that will do to Irish attitudes towards the Union is a major unanswered question with potentially large ramifications. More generally, the interaction between a sharp economic crisis in several countries, and underlying class-based or national hostility to EMU, could be a potent one.