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Standard Eurobarometer 50 - Highlights

The standard Eurobarometer was established in 1973. Each survey consists of approximately 1000 face-to-face interviews per country. Reports are published twice yearly. Reproduction is authorized, except for commercial purposes, provided the source is acknowledged.

The findings presented in this 50th Eurobarometer report, which illustrate the state of public opinion towards the European Union in the autumn of 1998 and also shed light on the development of public opinion during the 25 years that the Eurobarometer has been carried out, can be summarised as follows:

Expectations for 1999

Thirty-three percent of EU citizens are of the view that their life in general will be better in 1999 and 52% think it will be the same. The proportion of EU citizens who believe their life in general will be worse has steadily declined since the early nineties so that only 10% believe it for 1999.

The process of European integration

More than half of Europeans (55%) feel that a great deal or a fair amount has been achieved during the past 50 years in terms of Europen integration. Only 34% feel that very little or nothing at all has been achieved.

The public nowadays perceives Europe to be progressing at a faster pace than it did in the past. Conversely, people's desired speed has in recent years been lower than it was when the question was first asked in 1986. However, the current desired speed is not as slow as it was in the autumn of 1993.

Many Europeans (52%) believe the European Union will play a more important role in their daily life at the beginning of the next century and 32% believe it will play the same role. Furthermore, most Europeans would like the EU to play a more important role in their daily life (48%) or believe that it should at least play the same role (27%). There are very few people who believe the European Union will (7%) or should (14%) play a less important role in their daily life in the 21st century.

EU Support

Support for the European Union has increased for the third time in a row. More than half of the EU population regards their country's membership as a good thing and around half of the population feels that their country has benefited from EU membership. However, there are large variations in support levels between the 15 Member States and between the various socio-demographic groups in the population. While men (57%) are still more likely than women (51%) to regard their country's membership to the European Union as a good thing, the gap between the genders is decreasing. Positive responses among the female population cross the 50% mark for the first time since 1996.

The single currency

In the autumn of 1998, support for the single currency - which was introduced on 1 January 1999 - reached its highest level since the survey began measuring support in 1993. 64% of EU citizens were in favour of the euro and only 25% opposed it. Support is significantly higher in the countries that introduced the euro from the start (70%) than in the 4 "pre-in" countries (42%).

Over the years, people have become more optimistic about the perceived effects of the euro. While in 1996, 33% of the public still thought that the euro would have more disadvantages than advantages this view is now only shared by 28% of EU citizens.

The large majority of people, both in the countries that have introduced the euro and in the "pre-in" countries, believe that euro notes and coins should be introduced transitionally and that the period of dual circulation should last as long as is legally possible (i.e. 6 months).

Eighty-three percent of EU citizens are now able to say that the single currency is called the euro compared to only 46% in early 1996, when its name had just been decided.

The proportion of people living in the euro-zone countries who received information about the euro increased significantly since the spring of 1998. People living in the euro-zone countries are far more likely to say that they have received information about the euro than people in the "pre-in" countries (70% vs. 25%).

Enlargement

Many Europeans respond positively to the idea of enlarging the European Union to include new European countries. 72% feel that the Union will be more important in the world if it includes more countries and 64% regard a Union that consists of more member countries as a cultural enrichment and believe that a larger Union will guarantee more peace and security. However, the results also reveal that quite a few people are concerned about the economic implications of enlargement: 47% believe that enlargement will cost their own country more money and that their country will receive less financial aid once new countries have joined.

Nonetheless, economic factors are not the only issues that the public takes into account. There is widespread consensus that new countries can only join the European Union if they respect Human Rights and the principles of democracy (94%), if they fight organised crime and drug trafficking (92%) and if they protect the environment (91%).

Priorities in 1974 and 1998

In order to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Eurobarometer a question that measured what the most important problem facing the EEC in 1974 was has been repeated on the EB50. While fighting rising prices was top of the list in 1974, replacing the currencies is top of the (same) list in 1998.

In 1998, there is widespread consensus among the European public when it comes to employment: 92% believe the fight against unemployment should be a priority for the European Union and 89% want the EU to fight poverty and social exclusion. Other priorities are the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking, maintaining peace and security in Europe (both 89%) and the environment (86%).

Following the principle of subsidiarity, EU citizens are most likely to believe the EU should take decisions in areas which transcend national borders like the fight against drugs (72%), foreign policy (71%), scientific and technological research and humanitarian aid (both 70%).

The June 1999 European Parliament elections

More than 7 in 10 EU citizens intend to vote in the June 1999 European Parliament elections. Voting intentions are highest in Greece (92%) and lowest in Austria (58%).

Perceptions of how the media covers EU affairs

In comparison to the autumn of 1997, the public is now less likely to feel that the amount of EU news coverage on the television, the radio or in the daily newspapers is too little. The public is now slightly more likely to believe that the media covers EU affairs in a fair way.

EU citizens are most likely to consult the media when they look for information about the European Union. 60% say they get their information from the television, 41% say they get it from the daily newspapers and 24% say they get it from the radio.

However, few EU citizens feel they know much about the European Union so that the desire for more information is widespread: 21% say they really need to know a lot more and 44% would like to have some more information. 32% feel happy with what they already know.

Last update: 01/02/2012 | Top