European citizens back help for Ukraine. Meanwhile, their personal prospects are deteriorating

Europeans back measures to help Ukraine

Most European citizens are supportive of the measures taken in aid of Ukraine. Russia’s war in Ukraine marked the very first time in history that the EU directly funded the delivery of weapons into an active warzone. Overall, 64 percent of EU citizens support this step, while numbers vary significantly across member states, ranging from 84 percent in Poland to just 43 percent in Italy.

Defense, security, and EU enlargement

Public support is equally high, if not higher, for several more structural and longer-term changes to the European Union — some of which, it is reasonable to assume, grew out of the current escalations. For many years, the European public was rather skeptical of EU enlargement in general. In September 2019, for instance, just 51% were in favour, while 35% were against it. This has changed.

Change is in the air — for now

Looking back, it is safe to say that Europeans overwhelmingly back measures taken in support of Ukraine and want to see more structural changes to a European Union, which they increasingly see as an active player in world affairs ( 72% already do). During the early stages of Russia’s war in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke of a ‘ Zeitenwende,’ while EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used the term’ watershed moment.’

Europeans’ personal outlook deteriorating

With war in Europe, rising inflation and a lingering pandemic, European citizens’ personal prospects are deteriorating. If they continue to fall, so could support for far-reaching policies. Take Europeans’ economic situation. With inflation above the 7%-mark, EU citizens perceived economic situation has taken a hit.

Rising costs of living key personal worry

But what is it that Europeans are most worried about in their personal lives? EU-wide, rising costs of living (40%) top the list of personal worries, followed by health concerns (15%) and job insecurity (9%). Interestingly, those three categories already topped the list of personal worries in June 2019 and December 2018. Right now, Polish citizens are especially concerned about rising inflation. Spanish and Italian citizens hit very hard and early by Covid-19 remain worried about their health and job security.

‘Zeitenwende’ or not?

To conclude, the EU is faced with the following scenario. Europeans generally back political measures in support of Ukraine. The shock of war, the human suffering and the horrible pictures coming out of Ukraine have created an environment for decisive political change. At the same time, European citizens’ personal prospects are deteriorating. Hence, even though European politics may well be sailing with a tailwind since spring 2022 and talk of a ‘Zeitenwende’ is all around, this wind can easily cease or even turn. If personal prospects keep degrading further, so could support for far-reaching policies.

About the authors

Isabell Hoffmann is Senior Expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung and head of „eupinions”. eupinions is an independent platform for European public opinion. As an expert researcher on democracy and legitimacy in the European Union, she has managed research projects on the role of national parliaments in the EU as well as the origins and impact of populism, nationalism and authoritarianism in Europe.



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Global & European Dynamics

Global & European Dynamics

Our mission on this blog is to shed light on Europe’s role in the world economy.