Report ahead of EU elections: 5 myths debunked

A really good read if you ask me! I am summarizing and copying key insights (in Italic) for a quick read (bolded text my own). The detailed report here:

From the executive summary"
There seems to be incredible fluidity in the voting intentions. 70 percent of Europeans certain to vote are yet to make their choice. Nearly 100m swing voters are up for grabs. There is no single issue on voters’ minds; indeed, many are more worried about emigration than immigration. And many are more concerned about: Islamic radicalism (87m, 22 percent of the EU voting population); the rise of nationalism (45m, 11 percent); and the economy (63m, 16 percent). Just under 59m highlight migration as one of the top threats to Europe: only 15 percent of the EU voting population.

  1. Less tribalism, more volatility. Notice how trust is key.

Our research shows that, in this gaseous era of politics, the usual rules for predicting how voters are likely to behave no longer apply. Whereas vote choice and turnout are usually analysed as a function of socio-demographic factors, the upcoming election is driven more by issues. The probability of turning out in the election depends on what issues you care about, and there is also strong evidence for issue-based voting. But it is not only the position that leaders take on issues that matters; it is also their leadership and personalities, and the trust that people have in them. In other words: do leaders appear to embody the values and feelings of voters? Simply put, the rules of the election game have evolved.

  1. Open Europe vs closed nation states: What matters is for parties to be agents of change

The core divide is not one of wanting either an open Europe or a closed nation state, but between voters who think that the system is broken and those who think the status quo still basically works. […] This dynamic take has a highly local flavour, one which does not necessarily result in a shift against mainstream parties. In countries where anti-Europeans are in power, they are the status quo – but, in countries where they are in opposition, they have significant influence. However, the key lesson from the study is that success in this election depends on the ability to position oneself as a credible agent of change. It is about offering good positions on issues people care about. But equally important is whether voters trust politicians to bring about this change.

  1. Despite headlines, it’s not about migration.

The survey results show that a majority of people in every single country polled do not regard it as one of the top two issues facing their country. Hungary is the only country where immigration is still felt to be the number one threat to the EU. This is little wonder given the endless stream of propaganda that Orban puts out through his state-controlled media. .
There is a second reason migration is unlikely to work as a key driver of turnout at this year’s election: even those who see migration as a top issue mean radically different things when they talk about it. In some countries, respondents likely associated “migration” with emigration rather than immigration. Indeed, our research revealed a significant divide between those who worry predominantly about immigration in their countries and those who worry about emigration leading to a decline in the national population. While northern and western Europe still fears the inflow of outsiders, majorities in Greece, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Poland, and Romania are much more worried about their citizens leaving. This leads to the spectacular finding that double-digit majorities in all these countries would like their governments to make it illegal for their own citizens to leave for long periods of time.

  1. Myth 4: The dividing line in Europe is between east and west
    The truth: East and west are not homogeneous, and there are important differences between, and within, north and south

EU citizens in newer member states also seem less wary than their counterparts in older ones about the EU as a constraining force. This is perhaps explained by high levels of mistrust in corrupt national elites and weak national institutions in the east – meaning that they rate the EU higher by comparison. EU financial transfers may also play a role. And, when asked about the perceived consequences of EU membership, voters in Poland, Hungary, and Romania (along with Spain) were the most forceful in saying that EU membership protected against the excesses and failures of national governments.
As the political crisis in the EU peaked from 2015, growing coordination between Visegrad states (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) contributed to an image of these central and eastern European countries as more closed to newcomers, and less supportive of international commitments to protect refugees, than those in the west of the EU. In fact, the survey suggests that this image does not have strong underpinning either.

  1. Myth 5: All European elections are exclusively national
    The truth: This could be the first truly transnational European Parliament election

…voters in countries such as Hungary, Poland, and Romania see the EU’s role in protecting democracy, the rule of law, and human rights as vital. But there is also a great power dimension to their concerns: voters in France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Denmark, and Italy value the EU’s ability to counter the US and China. Finally, citizens of the three Scandinavian EU members, together with the Netherlands and Austria, appreciate the EU’s role in tackling climate change. This issue has the potential to be important in mobilising pro-European voters. The data suggest that people who worry about climate change tend to have more optimistic views of the EU, perhaps because they recognise it as an issue that goes beyond the nation state and requires collective action.

In many member states, there are high levels of concern about the threat of nationalism to the EU’s future among people who are likely to vote.

The outcome will be a new kind of ‘hybrid election’ – nationally grounded, but affected by debates elsewhere in Europe. This potential contagion adds to the unpredictability of the May 2019 vote: more than ever, an event in one EU member state could affect the election result in another.


Thanks @noemi, very thoughtful. So, it goes back to anti-establishment sentiment… which is in a sense more pure, because populism does not need migration to unfold. Mussolini was a populist in a country with a lot of net emigration, for example.

Good news: maybe this migration madness is finally about to end. The Italian minister of Internal affairs (kind of a home secretary), himself Europe’s sovereignist-in-chief, went on record saying that illegal migrants in the country are no longer estimated at 500,000, as he had previously and repeatedly claimed, but only at 90,000, less than 0.5% of the population (source, in Italian). Confusingly, his populist coalition partners, the 5 stars movement, stand by the 500,000 estimate, which could make policy decisions tricky.

Bad news: someone else gets to be the scapegoat now. Maybe the Roma, or the LGBT folks. Unnerving thought.