The Questions that Matter

The Questions that Matter to European citizens center on economic anxiety and the dispiriting notion that participation in politics matters less and less.

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 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).

Research at CeRSP currently 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 unemployment so devastating to individuals and societies?

  • How does being unemployed affect individuals’ current choices and behaviors?
  • In addition to present circumstances, does being unemployed affect future expectations and life prospects?

What are the greatest challenges to the next generation of Europeans?

  • What cross-currents of the market and democracy 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?
  • Is economic growth necessary for countries to flourish?
  • Can democracy be a counter-balance to market-generated inequalities? What is inequality’s influence on democratic politics including popular uses and perceptions of democratic institutions?

How do citizens’ perceptions of how democracy and the market work influence 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?How do individuals’ expectations of future market and democratic performance shape their support for these institutions?