Countdown to European Parliament elections

Article written by Duncan Barry – Media and Information Executive, MEUSAC

  • Support for Europe reaches 35-year high
  • Migration issue should be given priority in national debates leading to EP elections
  • Staggering 93% of respondents say Malta benefited from EU membership

On Wednesday, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani marked the start of the 365-day countdown to the next European elections by holding a news conference. The elections will take place on May 23 to 26, 2019.

During the press conference, the results of the Eurobarometer 89.2 of the European Parliament opinion polls were released one year ahead of the EP elections, the highlight being citizens’ support for the European Union reaching a 35-year high. The survey is entitled ‘Democracy on the Move, European Elections: One Year to Go’.

Apart from the continuous support towards the EU being shown by citizens, the survey found that 67% of Europeans are convinced that their country benefits from being a member of the EU – no doubt the highest score ever measured since 1983. Also for the first time, a majority of respondents (48%) said they believe their voice counts in the EU. As for the European elections, almost a third of respondents (32%) said that they the date of the European elections in 2019, while 50% said that they were interested in the elections.

Citizens see the Spitzenkandidaten process as a positive development (49% say it would encourage them to go to vote in the next European elections) – but 70% of respondents want it to go together with a real debate on European issues and the future of the EU.

Speaking of the debate on the EU, on a national level, MEUSAC has been organising a string of events to instigate the debate on the future of the EU, with more events expected later this year, including a series of citizens’ dialogues across Malta and Gozo.

Malta’s case
The majority of respondents in Malta (61 per cent) said that they are totally interested in European affairs, some seven points more than the average European is. The country that scored best is the Netherlands. Again, 61 per cent of Maltese respondents said they are totally interested in the next EP elections.

When asked whether citizens have a positive or negative image of the EP, 46 per cent of respondents in Malta said they have a totally positive image, once again much more than the average European. Forty-six per cent in Malta said that they will very likely vote in the elections while 17 per cent said they are likely to vote.

Asked which themes should be discussed as a matter of priority during the electoral campaign for the next elections, the majority of European citizens in Malta said that the issue of migration should be given priority – nothing surprising considering that migration topped the list of major concerns of citizens in Malta in many past surveys. Europeans want to hear about security issues in the broadest sense, including migration.

One year ahead of the European ballot, respondents were asked about voting in the elections. The majority of respondents said that going to vote was very easy for them, stating it is their duty as citizens to do so. Forty-seven per cent of respondents in Malta said that those who don’t go out to vote in the elections is due to the fact that they distrust the political system.

Benefits of EU membership for Malta
The majority of respondents said that they believe that Malta’s EU membership is a good thing – an increase of 10 per cent when compared to the last survey on the same subject. A staggering 93 per cent of respondents said that Malta has benefited from EU membership.

Most respondents across the EU continues to be satisfied with the way democracy works in their country. While respondents from some countries are more satisfied with the workings of democracy in the EU than in their own country, citizens from some larger Member States are showing a significantly lower degree of satisfaction with the way the democracy works in the EU. This becomes even clearer when the level of satisfaction with the way democracy works is put in perspective with the countries’ GDP per capita as well as their current unemployment rates. The majority in Malta are satisfied, although a relatively good amount are not.

The survey also looked at citizens’ opinions on new and emerging political parties. Between 2013 and 2018, more than 70 new parties and political alliances emerged in EU Member States, some of which campaigned successfully by protesting against the political establishment.

When asked to position themselves on a range of statements about such new parties and movements, a majority of Europeans perceive them rather positively. In Malta, such parties or movements are not considered a threat to democracy at all.

Finally, just under half of respondents in Malta (49 per cent) feel that their voice counts in the EU while the majority said that their voice counts in Malta while respondents in Malta feel that things are going in the right direction, both in Malta and in the EU.

Click here to read the full report.

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