Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence

Further memorandum from Professor Bob Worcester, MORI

  This past week the latest Eurobarometer has been made available, so I thought the Committee should be made aware of its findings.

  The fieldwork was carried out last autumn across the 15 EU Member countries, with a total sample size of 16,140 respondents, of whom approximately 1,000 were conducted in the UK, including in Northern Ireland.

  These are the key relevant findings:


    —  86% of people in the UK say they are either "very" (30%) or "fairly" (56%) satisfied with the life they lead. Across the EU, 19% are very satisfied, and 62% fairly satisfied, for a "satisfied" score of 81%.

    —  43% of the UK adults are optimistic about their life being better in the coming year (34% across the EU), while 6% are pessimistic (11% in the EU). The comparative net scores (those optimistic less those pessimistic) are Sweden +42, UK and Spain +37, top three; bottom three Portugal -15, Germany +2 and Greece +8.

    —  Not so with their expectations for the economic situation in their countries. While the UK is a -18, this compares favourably with the EU average of -25; The Dutch (-51), the Greeks (-41), and the Germans are the most pessimistic about their country's economy, while the Spanish (0), the Danes (-8) and the Finns (-6) are the most thinking their country's economy will be better in 2003.

    —  But the situation in their own household is somewhat brighter, with people in the UK saying +20, compared with +8 across the EU.

    —  As Iraq is so important now, and was only somewhat less important last Autumn, I thought you would be interested in knowing that when asked "In your opinion, would you say that the United States tends to play a positive role, a negative role or neither regarding peace in the world", that in the UK there is a +15 (47% "positive" less 32% "negative"), against the EU average of -14.


    —  In a battery of true/false questions, Britain did not do well:

      —  Only 20% knew that the EU did not have 12 members;

      —  15% thought the EEC was created just after WWI;

      —  Only 24% knew that the EU has its own anthem;

      —  17% think that Europe Day is observed in common by all member states of the EU;

      —  And only 40% knew that "Members of the European Parliament are elected by citizens like you and me". (I did not make up these questions!);

    —  36% of the UK say they know almost nothing about the EU (19% across the 15);

    —  19% of the UK say they know at least "quite a lot" (29% across the 15);

    —  73% of the British recall seeing the EU symbol (89% in the EU on average);

    —  85% of the British have heard of the European Parliament;

    —  74% of the European Commission;

    —  65% of the Court of Justice of the European Communities;

    —  54% of the European Central Bank;

    —  39% of the Council of Ministers;

    —  38% of the European Ombudsman;

    —  23% of the Committee of the Economic and Social Committee of the EU;

    —  and just 15% of the British say they have ever heard of the Convention on the Future of the European Union.


    —  75% of the British are for teaching school children about the way European Union institutions work (84% in the EU).

    —  By 61% to 27%, UK citizens believe that there should be priority given to the EU "getting closer to European citizens, for example by giving them more information about the European Union, its policies and its institutions.

    —  Sources for people to look for information about the EU in the UK are TV 49%, daily newspapers 40%, radio 19%, internet 15%, and other press and discussions, 11% each. For preference, TV (53%) and daily newspapers (38%) lead the field.


    —  While 44% of the British say they are "very attached to their town/village", that is somewhat lower than the 52% across the 15. Highest attachment is in Greece (71%) and Ireland (69%) while the lowest are Netherlands 43% and Finland 39%.

    —  Just under half, 48%, of the British say that they are very attached to their country, two points under the average. Highest is in Greece 77% and Denmark 76% follow by the Irish 70%. Low man is Spain at 40%, with Germany right behind at 41% as is Belgium.

    —  Only one person in twenty, 5%, in the UK say they are very attached to the EU; a third of the British feel "not at all attached". One in 10 across the EU is the average attachment figure, and 16% is the average figure for "not at all attached", with the Spanish at 23% and the Dutch at 22% with the most negative citizens towards the EU.

    —  Hardly anybody anywhere see themselves as only European (3% in the UK), while the 65% of the British who say they are only British compares with 38% in the EU average.


    —  While 31% of people here think Britain's EU membership is a "good thing", 19% say it is a bad thing, for a net score of +12; across the EU, the figures are 55% and 10% for a net score of +45.

    —  Four people in 10 in Britain say that Britain has not benefited from being in the EU and three in 10 say that we have; the EU comparative figures are 28% and 50%, for a net +22, compared with Britain's -10. Those countries where the most people have said their country has benefited are, you guessed it, the Irish, +73, the Greeks, +55%, and the Spanish, +51%, and surprisingly, the Danes, also a +51%. Least to say they have benefited, even past the British, are the Swedes, at -15. The other negative on balance country is the Finns, at -1.

    —  When asked "In general, does the European Union conjure up for you a very positive, fairly positive, neutral, fairly negative or very negative image?", the British are split evenly between those who say they are positive (29%), neutral (31%) and negative (30%), with 10% who say they "don't know". Across the EU, half say they are positive, only 13% negative, with a third (32%) neutral. Men are more positive than women, the young more than the old, the better educated more than the less well educated.

    —  Nearly half, 47%, of the British expect the EU to play a more important role in their daily life in five years" time, as do 45% of people throughout the EU.

    —  Over a third however, 35%, say they would like it to play a less important role, and 31% would like it to be more important.


    —  By more than two to one, 61% to 28%, the British would prefer the Euro to be less a priority than it is now; by two to one, 63% to 30%, EU citizens want it to take a higher priority.

    —  And by exactly the same percentages, the British are against a single currency, 61% to 28%, and nearly the same scores in the EU, the reverse of the opposition registered in the UK. In the EU, those for number 63%, those against 30%.

    —  And again, when asked a slightly different question, "for it or against it", the figures are nearly the same, 61% against, and 28% for in the UK; in the Euro 12 countries, support is 71% in favour, and 24% against. Even in Germany support is still two to one, 62% to 30%.

    —  When asked across those countries which went Euro on January 1 whether they think the Euro is a good thing or not 55% in the 12 think it is, 28% it is not; in Germany, 33% are of the opinion that their joining the Euro was good, but 38% believe it is bad.

    —  And when those who did not join at the outset were asked "If the Euro replaced our pound, do you think it would be either a very good thing, a fairly good thing, neither, fairly bad or very bad, only a quarter of the British said they thought it good, while 54% thought bad. The goods split 10% very, + 15% fairly, while the bads were 37% very and 17% fairly.

    —  Things haven"t gone that well for those people whose currency was changed to the Euro at the beginning of last year. Just 57% say they are "comfortable" with using the Euro, while 39% are not very/not at all comfortable.

    —  More than nine people in 10 in the Euro 12 say that prices have been rounded up since the introduction of the Euro in every country except Ireland and Finland.

    —  Four people in 10 in the Euro 12 say they have become attached to the Euro; 56% say they have not. By comparison, even in the Euro 12, six in 10 still feel attached to their past national currency.


    —  The British are split down the middle as to the way they perceive democracy works in the European Union: 38% are, 37% are not. Over a third, 36%, of people across Europe say they are not satisfied with the way democracy works in the EU.

    —  By comparison, six in 10 of the British, and of the average EU citizen, are satisfied with the way democracy works in their own country.

    —  More British tend not to trust than trust the European Parliament, European Commission, Council of Ministers, Ombudsman, etc. Only the Court of Justice has more British trusting than not, and then only by a narrow 35% to 31% margin.

    —  Finally, by 49% to 9%, the British believe that the European Union should have a written constitution, as do 65% to 9%, the members of the EU 15. Direct election by the people is the preferred way of choosing the President of the Commission, and by 48% to 18% the British want to keep the veto, and by a two to one majority, 53% to 24%, EU citizens agree.

10 March 2003

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