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Fear, a decisive force in these European elections – POLITICO

As the European Parliament elections approach, a growing sense of fear from multiple – but mutually reinforcing – sources appears to be the decisive force shaping voting behavior. EU citizens live in uncertainty in the face of vast economic and cultural changes occurring at an unprecedented pace, coupled with unforeseen crises, such as Covid and the climate crisis, and the re-emergence of conflict. war, on a continent that has always been accustomed to peace. more than half a century.

The poll

Last month, more than 10,800 European voters took their positions on pressing issues and current challenges facing the EU, as part of a large-scale comparative survey carried out by Kapa Research in 10 member countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain) between May 4 and 24, 2024.

This investigation goes beyond domestic dilemmas or voting intentions. Taking a closer look at emerging and established trends within European societies between 2019 and 2024, it examines what is shaping the bloc’s social agenda today, citizens’ concerns on European and international issues, leaders’ expectations and opinions on the world’s leading figures. Question after question, the answers reveal a strong undercurrent of fear impacting voting behavior just days before June’s European elections, and which emanates from four crucial realities.

The rising cost of living is the main concern of Europeans going to the polls.

Cause of fear #1: economic uncertainty

The rising cost of living is the main concern of Europeans going to the polls. The inflationary shocks that have stunned European economies in the post-pandemic period have created deep-rooted unease about citizens’ ability to make ends meet. Asked what concerns them most when thinking about Europe today, respondents, on average 47 percent, placed “the increasing cost of living” as their top concern. The problem has become remarkably prevalent in countries like France (58 percent), Greece (55 percent), Romania (54 percent), Spain (49 percent) and Bulgaria (44 percent). , but still in the rest of the countries surveyed. In member countries, the cost of living is among the top three causes of concern. This broad sense of economic uncertainty is further fueled by a persistent sense of injustice in the distribution of wealth: more than eight in 10 people (81 percent in total) believe that “in Europe, the rich are getting richer more and the rich get richer.” the poor are getting poorer and poorer.”

via Kapa Research

Anxiety turns to fear when we realize that the main political conflict has little to do with competing economic solutions to the high cost of living. Rather, it is a clash between systemic and extremist forces, primarily centered on the area of ​​immigration and the perceived threat to the European way of life.

Cause of fear #2: immigration

On a cultural level, since 2015, immigration in Europe has been a complex and multifaceted issue, with humanitarian and political implications. In our survey, immigration emerges as the second most important concern of citizens with 37 percent (on average), while, at the same time, on the question of which areas Europe should focus on over the next five years, he calls for “stricter control of immigration”. » are widespread, with 36 percent of respondents across all countries surveyed ranking it as a top priority. This is particularly evident in Germany (56%), despite its reputation as a welcoming country at the start of the migration crisis, and in Italy (40%), a hub to Europe for migrants and refugees. More importantly, the perception of immigration as a “threat to public order” is widespread, with 68 percent of respondents sharing this view, compared to just 23 percent who see it as an “opportunity for new workforce.”

via Kapa Research

Cause of fear n°3: war at our gates

The return of war to Europe has renewed fears about security; conflicts in Ukraine and, more recently, Gaza come into play as new factors impacting this year’s European elections. In this survey, “the Russia-Ukraine war” is the third most pressing concern for 35 percent of respondents, just two percentage points behind “immigration.” Here, geographic proximity is crucial since the problem is particularly significant in Estonia (52%), Hungary (50%), Poland (50%) and Romania (43%), all countries neighboring Russia or the ‘Ukraine. Furthermore, the demand for an immediate ceasefire on both fronts is predominant: 65 percent believe that hostilities in Gaza “must stop immediately,” while the same view is supported by 60 percent. the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

To this end, as the sense of danger from wars and terrorism grows, EU-UK relations become indirectly linked to the issue of security: 56% of respondents want a (re) )alignment between Britain and the EU. At the same time, and compared to current leaders, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair enjoys strong popularity.

Cause of fear #4: The unknown reality of AI

Over time, technological advances have been widely welcomed as a positive development for humanity, as a means of improving living conditions and as an accelerator of growth. The rapid rise of artificial intelligence in the daily lives of citizens seems to be disrupting this tradition. Among member countries surveyed, an average majority of 51 percent considers AI more of a “threat to humanity” than an “opportunity” (31 percent). Similarly, skepticism is reflected in the reluctance to make AI a strategic objective for the EU over the next five years, with 54% of respondents opposing it.

via Kapa Research

The mixture of the four ingredients above produces an explosive cocktail of fear within European societies.

To remember

The mixture of the four ingredients above produces an explosive cocktail of fear within European societies. Although this is combined with the dominant European technocracy and weak communication between institutions and citizens, it is reasonable to expect increased distrust and electoral consequences. Voters will use their ballot to send painful messages. However, our survey shows that the vast majority remains in favor of strengthening the European acquis – security, freedom, democracy, growth and social cohesion – and is looking for competent leadership capable of defending it.

via Kapa Research

View Kapa Research’s full investigative report here.


Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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