The survey that was carried out both in 2016-2017 and again between 2020-2022 shows that public support for leaving the European Union has waned.
In the study, first reported by the Irish Times, respondents were asked the hypothetical question: “Imagine there were a referendum in [your country] tomorrow about membership of the European Union. Would you vote for [your country] to remain a member of the European Union or to leave the European Union?”.
The new data shows that support in favour of leaving the EU dropped in every member state.
The breakdown revealed there was an 11.8 percentage point drop in Finland between the two surveys, whilst Slovenia saw a 10 percentage point drop, 8.8 in Austria, and 8.6 in Portugal. In the Netherlands the those in favour of an EU exit fell by 8.4 percentage points in the period, while in Italy it dropped by 8.3 percentage points and in France by 7.6.
Germany saw support for leaving the EU fall by 3.8 percentage points, in Sweden the potential leave vote fell by 5.2 percentage points and Spain saw a drop of 4.7 percentage points.
When it comes to those who would vote to remain in the EU, support has increased as might be expected given the fall in support for leave, but surprisingly not among all countries.
The share of respondents who would vote to remain in the EU rose by 14.8 percentage points in Finland, 11.2 in the Netherlands, 10.5 in Slovenia, 9.7 in Czechia, 8.2 in Hungary, 8.1 in Portugal, 7.5 in Italy, and 6.7 in France.
Despite most expressing a wish to remain in the EU, not every country saw a rise in support for voting to remain. In Germany, there was a drop of 5.1 percentage points for remain, 3.4 in Poland, 1.7 in Spain and 0.4 in Sweden. But in these countries respondents did not switch to backing leave but gave answers indicating they didn’t know which side they would vote for or that they just wouldn’t vote.
The survey’s results also reveal respondents’ growing attachment to the EU since 2016 in most member states. In France emotional connection to the EU rose from 44 percent to 48.8 percent and in Italy from 37.2 percent to 44.3 percent. In Hungary where the government has been in conflict with the EU, attachment grew from 60 percent to 70.3 percent.
The period covered by the survey coincides with the tortuous negotiations between the UK and Brussels over Brexit as well as a period of political and economic turmoil in the UK which has been partly blamed on Britain’s hard divorce from the EU. It also coincided with the Covid pandemic which saw EU countries working together over the vaccine roll out and travel regulations.
Eurosceptic parties such as Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally in France, as well as parties in Italy and the Netherlands have in recent years dropped calls for their countries to leave the EU or the single currency but instead advocated for the union to reform.