Support for leaving EU has fallen significantly across bloc

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Support for leaving the EU has dropped significantly, and sometimes dramatically, in member states across the bloc in the wake of the UK’s Brexit referendum, according to data from a major pan-European survey.

The European Social Survey (ESS), led by City, University of London and conducted in 30 European nations every two years since 2001, found respondents were less likely to vote leave in every EU member state for which data was available.

Asked in the survey’s 2016-2017 round whether they would vote remain or leave in a Brexit-style referendum, 28.6% of respondents in Finland who declared which way they would vote said they would opt for leave, compared with 15.4% who were asked in 2020-2022 – a fall of 13.2 percentage points.

Similarly stark declines between 2016 and 2022 were also recorded in Slovenia (a drop of 10.7 points), the Netherlands (9.5), Italy and Portugal (9.1), Austria (8.5) and France (8.3), with smaller but still statistically significant falls in Hungary (5.8), Spain and Sweden (4.6), the Czech Republic (4.5) and Germany (2.6).

The period coincides with the Covid pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which experts suggest have prompted many EU citizens to view membership more favourably, and decisions by many anti-EU parties, including in France and Italy, to abandon Frexit or Italexit policies in favour of reforming the EU from within.

The ESS survey also found that respondents’ emotional attachment to Europe had increased between 2016 and 2022 in most member states. Asked to rate how attached they felt to the bloc on a scale of zero to 10, 54.9% of Portuguese gave responses between seven and 10 in 2020-2022, against 41.5% in 2020-2022.

Strong emotional attachment to Europe in Finland rose to 58.7% from 46% over the period, while in Hungary – engaged in an increasingly bitter rule-of-law dispute with Brussels – it increased from 60% to 70.3%. In Italy the corresponding figures were 37.2% and 44.3%, and in France 44% and 48.8%. Germany and Spain were stable.

A Pew Research Center survey of 10 EU member states conducted in spring last year also found large majorities in nearly every country surveyed held a broadly favourable opinion of the bloc, with a median of 72% viewing it in a favourable light compared with 26% who had a broadly unfavourable opinion.

The ESS data also showed that support for staying in the EU – again excluding those who said they could not or would not vote, did not know which way they would vote, or would not cast a complete or valid ballot – increased in every member state for which comparable data was available, with remain support in 2020-2022 ranging from a low of 70.8% in the Czech Republic to a high of 95.3% in Spain.

Read more via The Guardian

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