Distrust of the EU isn’t just a right-wing cause

Britain could soon vote to leave—but what do other European countries think of the EU?
Britain could soon vote to leave—but what do other European countries think of the EU?
Image: Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

In a matter of weeks, Britain could vote to leave the European Union. The latest polls suggest the vote will be close, and some fear it could set off a domino effect among other European countries.

It’s not hard to see why some countries are losing faith in the bloc, given the EU’s much-criticized handling of its economic and refugee crises. Data from the Pew Research Center published yesterday (June 7) polled over 10,000 respondents from 10 major EU nations. A median of 51% of those surveyed held a favorable view of the EU, and a median of 42% wanted more power shifted away from Brussels and returned to their national governments.

The data highlights how Euroskepticism is not neatly divided down left- and right-wing lines. In the UK, anti-EU sentiment is largely (though not exclusively) the preserve of the right. Pew found that Brits on the left were 31 percentage points more likely than those on the right to view the EU favorably. Contrast this with Spain, where those on the right were found to be more likely to support the EU.

Distrust in the European project is a prevalent theme among populist left-wing parties that have gained traction since the economic crisis and oppose the fiscal austerity imposed by the EU. This is reflected in Pew’s data: In Spain, where youth unemployment is the second-highest in the EU at 45% and the left-wing Podemos party gained support in last December’s election, half of the left favored devolution from Brussels, versus 29% on the right.

This is reversed in the UK: 77% of Brits on the right were in favor of limiting Brussels’ powers, compared with 40% of those on the left.

The surge in left-wing anti-EU sentiment is also evident in Greece, which has seen much of its economic policy-making be decided by EU institutions in recent years. Pew found that three-quarters of those on the Greek left believe more power should be handed back to Athens. This sits within a broader patten: around two-thirds of Greeks shared this view, Pew said.