The Questions that Matter

The European Elections Survey 2014 is a set of face-to-face individual-level interviews (CAPI) of voting age Europeans conducted in all EU member states following the EU Parliamentary election (the total number of observations in 2014 was 27,331). As in past EES surveys, citizens were asked what they saw as the most important issue facing their country. They were allowed to give two responses (ordered first and second).

According to the analytic overview of the 2014 European Elections Survey by the Public Opinion Monitoring Unit of the Directorate-General for Communication (Brussels, here), the issues that drove EU citizens to the polls in 2014 included – in descending order of importance – anxiety about unemployment (45%); a return of economic growth (40%); and immigration (23%). Unsurprisingly, unemployment was mentioned most often in in Greece; Cyprus; Spain; and Italy; economic growth was the issues of most importance in Portugal; Latvia; and Lithuania; and immigration was mentioned as the most important problem in both the United Kingdom and France.

In addition, despite a majority, positive opinion of the EU and its performance, the most mentioned reason for not voting included generic – if potent – individual-level political apathy (i.e.: lack of interest and trust in politics) and lack of political efficacy (i.e.: my vote does not count).

Therefore, which questions matter to European citizens? It appears that economic anxiety tops the list as well as the dispiriting idea that participation in (democratic) politics matters less and less.

Research at CeRSP examines – and proposes to extend research – into the issues of unemployment, economic growth, and the individual-level sources and ramifications of political legitimacy in Europe by pursuing the several lines of investigation:

  • Why is long-term unemployment so devastating to individuals and societies?
    • How does unemployment affect individuals’ expectations of their future job searches as well as prospects for employment stability and security?
    • What are the effects on economic, social and political choices of long-term unemployment?
    • Are there viable alternatives for youth to long-term, single source employment?
  • What are the greatest challenges to the next generation of Europeans’ abilities to achieve or surpass the outcomes of their parents?
    • What are the macro- and micro- cross-currents of both economics and democracy that identify current and future challenges?
    • How can we promote positive individual outcomes and opportunities as well as identify hindrances and facilitators?
  • Is inequality a necessary element of economic growth? If so, can we live well without growth?
    • How do changes in national-level income inequality affect the quality and extent of life chances for citizens?
    • Not all inequalities are the same. Which best identify functioning – and non-functioning – political and economic institutions?
    • While national economic growth is assumed to be an antidote to many economic problems, research in both the field of Economics (see CORE) tells us that this may no longer be a sustainable assumption. Are there workable alternatives?
    • Can democracy be a counter-balance to market-generated inequalities? What is inequality’s influence on democratic politics including broad, popular uses and perceptions of democratic institutions?
  • Are citizens’ perceptions of how democracy and the market work important to their orientations, attitudes, and behaviors?
    • How do the ‘real’ context of modern nation-states compare to individuals’ experiences and perceptions of them.
    • What explains their alignment or divergence?

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