Thursday, 25 September 2008

Tracking: European parliament elections 2009 (XVI)

Upon a request from the European Parliament, Eurobarometer has published a 93 pages long special report on the upcoming European elections.

And while Euractiv focuses on the finding that European Union citizens expect the next EP elections to be about the economy, there is much more in the report.

The field operation was done during this spring, so the findings are already six month old. Nevertheless, they are very interesting. The main quotation (p. 14) and main summary might be: "[A]t the current time the 2009 European elections are not a central issue."

When we look at the report, we see that this is actually true. Therefore some more extracts from the survey:
  • Only 16% of respondents knew that the elections will be in 2009, an improvement of 6% to the last survey 6 month before. About 75% have no clue at all. People from Luxemburg and Greece were best informed (43% and 36% knew that the EP elections are in 2009), Finnish and British the least (both 3%).
  • 8% are very interested while 22% are very desinterested in these elections. The highest interest in the EP elections can be found among Romanians, Maltese, Irish, and Cypriots (all above 60%), the least interested are Latvians, Czeques, Slovaks, and British (all below 40%). Young people are the least interested (Remark: This is a general trend in elections.), and those who trust the EU are much more interested than those who don't trust.
  • The group most unlikely to vote are the students. 22% definitely do not want to vote (average: 14%).
  • Those who do not want to vote think that they cannot change anything (68% of non-voters), do not know enough about the European Parliament in general (60%) or about the vote in particular (58%) or they are just not interested in the European elections (59%). Being against the EU, Europe or the European constitution is no sufficient reason not to vote (only 22% affirm this as reason not to vote).
  • Regarding choice for particular candidates, the position on national issues is only minimally more important (somewhat exagerated by the headline Brussels Blogger has chosen) than the position on European issues (37% compared to 36%). However, this shows that national and European issues have an equal weight for voters , even though the elections are European.
  • The most important topics are unemployment, economic growth, and inflation. The least important topics are the powers and competences of European institutions, European values and identity, and the preservation of the European social model. Immigration is most important in Spain, Malta, Austria and Great Britain (more than 50% of respondents rank this issue important), the least important for Poland and Bulgaria.
After presenting and interpreting all the data, the authors finish and conclude from their report that
"The two main challenges of the 2009 European elections will be to inform European citizens about the European Parliament’s role and the ability of candidates to offer practical solutions at European level to the economic crisis."
This is not very spectacular, if I might be very direct.

My conclusions are: National media need to give much more attention to the whole process and its political dimensions. Sure, there is a need to better explain the role of the European Parliament and yes, it will be nice if the election campaign will tackle issues that actually interest European citizens, but in the end it is much about the visibility of the process as such.

As long as around 75% of respondents are not aware that in 2009 there will be European Parliament elections while political parties are already preparing their candidate lists, how can we expect any interest in the matter...?!

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.


Fabian Guy Neuner said...

It's quite interesting...

On the one hand people across Europe are complaining about not being allowed to participate in EU politics and demand referendums but on the other hand, given the chance to partake via EP elections, they either don't want to know about it or they just don't care.

Vitaliy said...

From my perspective, there is the accompanying issue of accountability. A lack of voter interest in their public officials lowers the perceived cost of corruption for the politicians who - no doubt are aware of the low awareness of their office - will not feel as connected to the electorate as if they would in cases when voters are aware of 1. who their public officials are and 2. what they promised they would do while in office.

Christine Fischer said...

Fabian, demanding more direct democratic tools on a European level and vote for the elections to the European parliament are two different things. Whereas during votes the citizens choose between given candidates and parliamentary groups, direct democratic instruments offer the citizens the unique chance to put forward their own opinion and to vote on it. To bring the citizens closer to their Union, it is of course important to communicate the citizens that their views and positions are important – in elections as well as through the launch of direct democratic instruments.