What do Europe's citizens think about the common agricultural policy (CAP)? (11/2000)
A broad-ranging debate has opened up on the future direction of the common agricultural policy (CAP), provoked in part by the recent BSE and foot-and-mouth crises. The mid-term review of the CAP is scheduled for 2002 and a dialogue on this has already begun. Consumer expectations will be an important consideration in the discussions. In order to assess public perception of the policy, two Eurobarometer opinion polls were carried out among farmers and the general public in October and November 2000. The surveys revealed a widespread interest in agricultural issues and a wish for more information on them.
Whilst 92 % of the general public think that agriculture is important, only 50 % had heard about the common agricultural policy. Both farmers and the general public were asked to rate the importance of a list of 12 policy objectives, including food safety, environmental protection, the improvement of rural life, the protection of farm incomes and the competitiveness of European agriculture on international markets. Whilst a clear majority of people thought that all the objectives were important (ratings varied between 76 and 97 %), the levels of satisfaction with how they were being met ranged between 16 and 57 %. The protection of farm incomes and small farms was seen as badly served, by both farmers and the general public. Food safety and environmental protection were considered to be the top priorities by those surveyed.
Both groups supported the change in direction resulting from the reform process, whereby production subsidies and intervention were reduced in favour of direct payments to farmers. However, 63 % of the farmers who were questioned feel that the CAP is unfavourable to them, with the notable exception of Irish and Danish farmers. Only 46 % of the farmers interviewed rely on agriculture alone for their family income; 59 % of farmers and 46 % of the general public thought that agricultural funding should be increased. The national variations ranged from Denmark, where 13 % of people held this view, to Greece, where 76 % were dissatisfied with the funding.
The survey revealed an acute need for information on the international aspects of agricultural policy. With respect to the proposed enlargement of the Union, half of the respondents in both groups had heard something about it, but only 20 % of farmers and 10 % of the general public felt that they were well informed on the subject. Perhaps as a result, a majority of both groups felt that the consequences for Europe would be negative. When asked about the trade discussions with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), 65 % of farmers and 77 % of the general public had heard nothing about them, with only a very small proportion of either group stating that they were well informed on the subject.
As well as polling people on their attitudes towards the CAP, the survey also asked questions about the information sources that people use to inform themselves. Not surprisingly, most people receive their information from television (85 % of the general public, 66 % of farmers). There were some differences between the two groups in relation to press sources: farmers rely nearly as much on the specialised agricultural press (64 %) as on television, whereas the public prefer the general press (61 %). On average, 10 % use the Internet as an information source, although the national variations were significant, ranging from 27 % of Austrian farmers to 2 % of Greek farmers. There were marked age, gender and educational biases among the general public, with younger, well-educated males twice as likely to use the Internet as the European average. Among farmers, younger members, and those with large farms, use this resource more than other groups.
The public's attitudes towards the common agricultural policy
Farmers' attitudes towards the common agricultural policy
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