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Top Decision Makers Survey Summary Report

Fieldwork: 19th February - 20th May 1996
Publication : September 1996

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Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The perceived role of Europe in the world
  3. Threats to European interests
  4. Attitudes to membership and benefits drawn from the European Union
  5. Priorities for the European Union in the next ten years
  6. The most serious problems and issues currently facing the European Union
  7. Subsidiarity and the decision taking process
  8. Support for institutional and "constitutional" issues
  9. The single currency
  10. Technical Specifications

1. Introduction

The Eurobarometer has been engaged in the field of public opinion measurement for over twenty years, surveying both the general public and special target groups as needed by the different services of the Commission.

While many surveys interview special interest groups across the Union this is the first time that a survey involving such a wide range of persons holding high positions has been attempted.

The universe was divided into five groups;

In order to conduct the survey a data base was constructed identifying the top positions for each of the groups. The survey attempted to interview at the highest possible level persons holding these positions in each of the five groups in each member state. The number of interviews per member state was based on its representation in the European Parliament. In all 3,778 persons were interviewed and the EU averages are weighted according to total population figures for each member state. Details of the "sample" are appended to this report.

The survey method adopted was of interview by telephone, on the assumption that our respondents were very busy people and that 15 minutes was the maximum time that we could reasonably expect to prevail on their time. In the event a number of interviews took longer as participants were both willing and desirous of giving more detailed responses, for which we are grateful.

The "sample" profile was significantly different from that of a general public survey; 89% of those interviewed were men, 11% women, the highest number of women interviewed was found in Sweden with 22%. In the five sub-groups we found women best represented in the category 'elected politicians' at 17%. In both the cultural and media groups women account for just over 10% but in the industrial/ business sector we found women only holding 3% of the top positions.

The mean age of the respondents was 52.5 years, older means were recorded in France, Italy and Germany, 54.5, 53.8 and 53.5 respectively, the youngest in Luxembourg 48.6. Analysis by group showed that group 5 the "cultural" group tended to be older, 55.6 years on average, while the media group were the youngest at 47.1.

The average age at which respondents had completed their education was 23.9, but we noted higher scores in Ireland (26.7), Finland (25.3) and Greece (25.1), the lowest was 21.9 as recorded in the United Kingdom.

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2. The perceived role of Europe in the world

Six in ten (63%) respondents considered that the European Union and its institutions did not play a sufficiently important role on the world stage compared with the other great power blocks such as the United States, Russia or China. This feeling was particularly high in Luxembourg (82%), Belgium (80%), Italy (79%), the Netherlands (72%) and France (70%).

Twenty-nine percent of our respondents felt the Union was playing the role it should; higher scores were recorded in Finland (69%), Ireland and Sweden (44%), the United Kingdom (43%) and Denmark (42%). Only 4% of respondents thought that the Union and its institutions played too big a role, with very small national or group variations.

Figure 1

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3. Threats to European interests

The development of religious fundamentalism and the development of certain countries into nuclear powers are found at the head of the list of those threats considered affecting the vital interests of Europe in the next ten years.

List of threatsMean Scores
1. A possible progression of religious fundamentalism.6.2(1)
2. The possible development into nuclear powers of countries
other than China, France, Great Britain, Russia and the USA.
6.2
3. The outbreak of violent nationalist movements outside
the borders of the European Union.
5.9
4. Heavy immigration from non-European Union countries.5.9
5. Increase in ethnic and/or territorial conflicts inside European countries.5.8
6. A possible nuclear accident like that at Chernobyl inside European countries.5.8
7. The development of China into a world power5.4
8. The outbreak of extreme nationalists movements within the European Union.5.4
9. The economic power of Japan.5.1
10. The economic power of the USA.5.1
11. The remaining military might of Russia.4.8

An overall analysis of the number of threats felt by respondents indicates that those countries contiguous with the Mediterranean recorded higher levels of concern on most of the issues presented. Conversely low scores were found in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. Analysis by the five groups shows that the media group was likely to anticipate more threats than the other four groups.

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4.Attitudes to membership and benefits drawn from the European Union

The standard Eurobarometer surveys have for a number of years tracked public attitudes towards membership of the European Union and it was therefore of interest to ask some of the same questions of top decision makers.

Response to the question as to whether membership of the European Union was a "good" or a "bad" thing showed 94% of top decision makers (TDMs) considered it a "good" thing, 2% a "bad" thing and 4% "neither good nor bad". This is in sharp contrast with the general public where the comparable figures were 48% "good thing": 15% "bad thing" and 28% "neither good nor bad". (2)

The most striking difference between the results of the two surveys is the range of response. Amongst TDMs there was a relatively small variation (14%) between countries; the highest support was recorded in Germany at 98%, the lowest in Sweden at 84%. In the general public survey we note a high-low variation of 48%: highest was 75% "good thing" in the Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands, to low scores of 27% and 29% in Austria and Sweden.

Amongst the five groups surveyed in the TDM study support ranged from 91% for the media group to 96% amongst top civil servants.

Figure 2

The perceived benefits of membership were also more evident to the top decision makers. Ninety percent considered that their country had benefited from Union membership, this compares with 45% amongst the general public. Only 8% of TDMs thought their country had received no perceptible advantages from membership, again in sharp contrast to the general public where 34% claim no benefit and 21% were unable/unwilling to give an opinion.

In the country analysis we observed lower levels of perceived benefit in the three new member states, Finland, Austria and Sweden (79%, 73% and 63% respectively). In the general public survey a similar pattern is noted, but at a much lower level. The perceived benefit scores for these three countries were: Finland 34%, Austria 33% and Sweden 17%.

Figure 3

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5. Priorities for the European Union in the next ten years

The establishment and maintenance of peace throughout Europe together with fighting unemployment, crime and terrorism are rated as the top priorities for the European Union in the next ten years. A survey conducted at the same time using a very similar question amongst the general public shows that concerns are almost identical between the two groups as the table below indicates. The one striking difference being the perceived importance of economic growth; ranked fourth by TDMs, but only eight by the general public.

In the sub-group analysis we observe almost uniform results for these three main concerns. However more divergence is shown on some of the other issues, business leaders considering issues such as social welfare and the protection of the environment a lower priority than other groups, while regional inequalities and farm subsidies are likely to be considered more important by the elected politicians.

Priorities for the next 10 years

List of priorities Rank Position of Importance
TDMs General Public(3)

Help establish and maintain peace

1

2

Fight unemployment

2

1

Fight terrorism/drug trafficking/ organised crime

3

2

Promote economic growth

4

8

Protect the environment

5

5

Guarantee the individual liberties of EU citizens

5

6

Promote social welfare

7

7

Ensure that respect for law and justice is upheld

8

4

Defend EU interests throughout the world

8

9

Reduce regional inequalities

10

10

Ensure adequate income for farmers

11

11

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6. The most serious problems and issues currently facing the European Union

In response to the question "Thinking ahead the next few years, which are the most serious problems and issues facing the European Union?", TDMs spontaneously cited problems relating to various aspects of the economic and financial situation and employment. In the economic/ financial section mention was made the introduction of the single currency and the associated convergence criteria, problems of the economy, rates of economic growth, recession, convergence of member states' economies, harmonisation and the development of free enterprise. Under the title "finance" concerns were expressed about inflation, interest rates, public spending and public debt, taxation policy and wastage in the public sector.

Thirty-six percent of respondents cited issues relating employment as current problems for the Union, these included the maintenance of or increase in current job levels, the redistribution of employment, problems relating to the black economy and the often associated problem of illegal immigration, and finally competition from low wage economies.

Concerns about the structure of the Union mentioned the relationships of member states with the Union. Issues such as sovereignty, equality between member states, defence of national interests and two speed Europe were refer to. Mention was also made of the role of European institutions together with the upcoming Intergovernmental Conference, the need for revision of the mechanisms of decision taking and the reduction in bureaucracy.

Relations with non member countries as reflected by titles such as enlargement and external relations (world trade, need for a common foreign and defence policy, the development of China and the Asian sub-continent) were mentioned by a number of respondents.

Under the rubric home affairs protection of social rights (social protection and social security) ranked highest, followed by issues concerning poverty, marginalisation and social exclusion. Problems relating to immigration, asylum rights, assimilation and racism were cited by some, as were the issues of crime, terrorism and drugs.

Mention of issues relating to cultural affairs, education and the environment received less comment. The last mentioned is in sharp contrast with general public surveys where concern for the environment is ranked high on the list of priorities for Union attention.

Figure 4

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7. Subsidiarity and the decision taking process

The question of where, regionally, nationally or at EU level, particular policy areas should be decided, is one which touches at the central core of the various treaties and will be an important issue for the up-coming Intergovernmental Conference. The table below illustrates the views of TDMs on each of the topics examined. Despite on-going concerns expressed in some general public surveys on the introduction of the single currency we find very strong support for European level decision taking on this issue(EU15 mean score 7.8). However, lower scores were recorded in the United Kingdom (5.8) and Sweden (6.1), elsewhere particularly high scores were recorded in Belgium (8.9), Luxembourg (8.8), Spain (8.7), France (8.4) and Germany (8.2).

Protection of the environment is another issue seen a particularly in the remit of Europe. At the other end of the scale education, health care, social policy and regional policy are seen as issues primarily for the national governments. Again these are the issues which the general public would also prefer to be dealt with a national level.

Figure 5

(4)

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8. Support for institutional and "constitutional" issues

The support for certain issues of an institutional or constitutional nature were measured by levels of support for the following statements:

As can be seen from the table below support was highest for the accountability of the Commission to the European Parliament (83% for). Support was also high for national/regional/local government decision taking (81%). Fewer, but nevertheless a substantial majority (65%), supported the concept of a European government. Sixty-three percent supported equal rights for the European Parliament.

Support for Key Issues - by country and EU15
Country
EP support for Commission
Equal Rights
for EP
European Government
National/Local decision taking

Belgique/België

90

78

89

78

Danmark

55

23

16

76

Deutschland

89

73

72

85

Ellas

91

77

72

64

Espana

84

64

77

75

France

84

59

64

82

Ireland

62

50

40

87

Italia

91

71

87

87

Luxembourg

79

46

52

75

Nederland

91

61

63

77

Österreich

84

57

65

82

Portugal

67

45

33

71

Suomi

66

24

25

58

Sverige

63

37

36

56

United Kingdom

69

53

43

87

EU15

83

63

65

81

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9. The single currency

In overall terms support for the introduction of the single currency is significantly higher amongst TDMs than the public at large. Fifty-one percent say they are "very much for" its introduction, 34% "somewhat for", 7% are "somewhat against" and 6% "very much against". Comparable figures for the general public are 20% "very much for", 33% "somewhat for", 15% "somewhat against" and 18% "very much against". (5)

National differences are evident with very strong support being given by TDMs in Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain (over three quarters strongly supporting the single currency). The most negative scores are found in United Kingdom and Sweden: 18% and 17% "very much against" respectively.

Within the five groups we found highest levels of support coming from the industry/business sector, where 56% were "very much for", overall in no group did the "against" figure exceed 15%.

Figure 6

The four key categories cited by respondents for being in favour of a single currency were economic, political, commercial and monetary. Forty-one percent cited economic reasons supporting the single currency, these included a reduction of inequalities between the national currencies, favouring economic convergence, economic stability and development, increased productivity and competitivess with the rest of the world and increased cohesion and economic integration.

Thirty-five percent cited the political advantages, included in this category were the need for monetary union for the progress towards European unification, increased co-operation between member states, the reduction of nationalism and the development of "l'esprit communautaire" and the reduction of the domination of one state or currency over the others.

The third group of advantages described as commercial were cited by 23% of respondents, they related to reduction or elimination of exchange rates, the reduction of needless expenses, and finally necessary for the completion of a real single market.

In the final category entitled monetary reasons, respondents cited the elimination of currency speculation, reduction in both inflation and interest rates, more financial and monetary discipline, stable exchange rates and lastly a better control over the movement of capital.

Other less frequently mentioned reasons for favouring a single currency included the fact that it would simplify procedures at the European level, in particular in the Common Agricultural policy. It would have a beneficial effect on employment, and at the social/cultural level it would facilitate social and cultural exchanges and raise public awareness of Europe.

Figure 7

Amongst the minority (13%) that were against, reasons again broke down into similar groups, 27% of this group cited practical problems; these included the lack of convergence between member states, their own country not being ready and insurmountable technical problems for the introduction. Economic difficulties referred to included the disequilibrium between the national economies, the harm to individual national economies, the risk that it would lead to a "very centralist and socialist economy".

Political concerns, mentioned by 23% of the antagonists, included the impossibility of countries continuing to have control over their own economic and fiscal policies, the implied loss of sovereignty and the ceding of too much control to France and Germany.

To conclude there was a category personal reasons here we found comments such as :

and as one respondent put it:

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Technical Specifications

1. Top Decision Makers Survey

Between 19th February and 20th May 1996, EOS Gallup Europe carried out a pilot study amongst "Top Decision Makers" at the request of the European Commission. The following table gives the sample details and fieldwork dates by country.

Country Institutes Nr of interviews Fieldwork Dates

Austria

Österreichisches Gallup

167

28/2 - 26/3

Belgium

DIMARSO

200

26/2 - 25/3

Denmark

GALLUP

151

13/3 - 29/3

Germany

EMNID

475

26/2 - 28/3

Greece

ICAP

202

21/2 - 19/3

Spain

DEMOSCOPIA

316

27/2 - 26/4

France

B.V.A.

455

21/2 - 12/3

Ireland

Irish Marketing Surveys

165

19/2 - 4/4

Italy

DOXA

471

29/2 - 2/4

Luxembourg

ILReS

71

26/2 - 27/3

Netherlands

NIPO

200

18/3 - 20/5

Portugal

METRIS

150

7/3 - 29/4

Finland

Suomen Gallup

151

21/2 - 27/3

Sweden

SIFO

151

5/3 - 28/3

United Kingdom

NOP

453

26/2 - 2/4

2. Standard Eurobarometer 45.1

Between 12th April and 18th May 1996, INRA (Europe), a European Network of Market and Public Opinion Research agencies, carried out wave 45.1 of the Standard Eurobarometer at the request of the European Commission. The following table gives the sample details and fieldwork dates by country.

Country Institutes Nr of interviews Fieldwork Dates

Austria

SPECTRA

1064

18/04 - 07/05

Belgium

MARKETING UNIT

1035

22/04 - 09/05

Denmark

GFK DANMARK

1000

01/05 - 16/05

Germany

INRA DEUTSCHLAND

2139

19/04 - 06/05

Greece

KEME

1006

19/04 - 30/04

Spain

CIMEI

1000

19/04 - 29/04

France

TMO

1008

15/04 - 26/04

Ireland

Lansdowne Market Research

1002

23/04 - 13/05

Italy

PRAGMA

1103

16/04 - 30/04

Luxembourg

ILReS

598

12/04 - 06/05

Netherlands

NIPO

1009

22/04 - 14/05

Portugal

METRIS

1000

18/04 - 02/05

Finland

Market Development Center

1022

20/04 - 12/05

Sweden

TEMO

987

25/04 - 18/05

United Kingdom

NOP/Ulster Marketing Surveys

1362

16/04 - 07/05

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Footnotes:

(1)These figures represent the mean scores for each statement, a score of 10 would represent a very strong threat, while a score of 1 would represent virtually no threat. [Back to text]

(2)Results taken from Standard Eurobarometer No 45.1, fieldwork 12th April - 18th May 1996. [Back to text]

(3)Results taken from Standard Eurobarometer No 45.1, fieldwork 12th April - 18th May 1996. [Back to text]

(4)These figures represent the mean scores for each policy area asked about. A mean score of 10 would mean that respondents consider that the policy should be decided exclusively at European Union level, while a score of 1 would indicate that respondents consider the policy should be decided entirely at national/regional level. Intermediate scores indicate the degree to which respondents feel policy areas should be treated at the European or national level. [Back to text]

(5)Results taken from Standard Eurobarometer No 45.1, fieldwork 12th April - 18th May 1996. [Back to text]

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