More and More Europeans Do Not Like the EU

Refugees in Istanbul
Photograph by Anadolu Agency Getty Images

U.K. citizens are giving the European Union close scrutiny as they prepare to vote in a tight June 23 referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the Brussels-based institution. But they are by no means the only ones having doubts about the value and purpose of the political bloc.

A new Pew Research Center survey of 10,491 people across 10 EU nations points to a steep decline in the EU’s popularity among Europeans, including citizens of some of the bloc’s biggest member states. A median of just 51% across countries surveyed have a favorable view of the European Union.

Of the six countries surveyed in both 2015 and 2016, EU favorability declined in five of them. France reported a 17 percentage point drop, Spain reported a 16 point dip, and Germany, the U.K. and Italy reported single-digit percentage point decreases of 8, 7, and 6, respectively.


Pew characterizes Europeans’ opinion of the EU as a “roller coaster ride” that dipped when the European economy cratered from 2012 to 2013 and that then rebounded in 2014 and 2015. The EU is experiencing a sharp decline in public support again due in large part to how Brussels has handled the refugee crisis. In every country surveyed, Pew says, “overwhelming majorities disapprove of how Brussels has dealt with the problem. This includes 94% of Greeks, 88% of Swedes, and 77% of Italians. The strongest approval of EU management of the refugee crisis is in the Netherlands, but that backing is a tepid 31%.”


Even still, respondents appear to want the U.K. to stay in the union that they don’t particularly like. A median of 70% in the nine EU nations surveyed that don’t get a vote June 23 believe it would be bad for the EU if the U.K. decided to depart. Only 16% say it would be a good thing.

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