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A BBVA Foundation report shows how the citizens of 5 European countries see their political situation, the role of the State, the EU, the media, and challenges such as migration and climate change.
The BBVA Foundation has published the first part of the European Values Study, which analyses a broad set of values and attitudes of the adult population of Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain regarding the public sphere.
The study shows that “despite the differences among the citizens of the five European countries studied, Europeans share more affinities than discrepancies regarding matters of public interest”. The data was obtained through a survey of a representative sample of 1,500 people over 18, in each of the five most populous countries of the European Union.
Most European citizens agree that “terrorism, cyberattacks, migration and climate change are the most worrying social and environmental challenges today”.
Regarding climate change, all are pessimistic, especially in France and Germany, where it is perceived as irreversible and they just want to mitigate some of its effects.
A large majority approves “migration policies that allow the entry of migrants, but conditioned to the existence of jobs and, more important, to the setting of maximum annual quotas”.
STRONG IDENTIFICATION WITH THEIR NATIONS
The study states that the citizens of the 5 countries surveyed “strongly identify with the values and symbols of their nations, and take pride in them”. All countries emphasise the importance of the homogeneity of language, to facilitate coexistence in society.
This feeling of belonging extends to the framework of the European Union, an institution that Europeans consider “beneficial”, including British citizens.
The results reveal that more than 40% of the respondents believe that the leaving of the United Kingdom would weaken the EU's position in the world. Even so, the majority of the citizens of the five countries say “the EU institutions are very far from citizens”.
All countries value political parties as “necessary institutions to defend their interests”, and expect the State to have a proactive role in social and economic matters. However, political corruption worries all respondents; especially in Spain and Italy, and to a lesser extent in Germany.
In the 5 countries, the politicians are perceived as “a group that is more interested in their own interests than those of society”, and agree that society needs leaders who do not come from traditional politics.
The report reveals differences of opinion about traditional and new parties. While the former are perceived negatively because “they have stopped representing citizens properly”, the new parties have a better image.
When it comes to voting, citizens take a more condescending attitude towards politicians. Instead of focusing on their professional skills, they give importance to the program and the ideology of the party.
TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS AND PROFESSIONAL GROUPS
All countries ”rely heavily on professional public administration groups and institutions, specially universities, police, judges, public researchers and the military”.
Among private proffesional groups, “doctors, teachers, scientists and engineers, in that order, are the ones who count with a high level of confidence, while politicians, bankers and priests are below the confidence threshold”.
TRADITIONAL OR DIGITAL MEDIA?
The research shows that Europeans, with the exception of the 18-24 year old social group, prefer conventional media than digital media for information on matters of public interest.
According to respondents, ”traditional media are more credible than social media, which are responsible for misinformation and dissemination of fake news”.
SPAIN AND ITALY
Spain and Italy are characterized by a low level of associationism and participation and a lower press reading. Citizens there consider the welfare state benefits important and believe that there is a lot of corruption. As a consequence, the levels of institutional trust are very low.
France shares with Spain and Italy some features, but its citizens participate more in the public arena and have a less critical perception of corruption.
They have a medium-low level of institutional trust and, as in Italy, a more critical view about traditional political parties.
Germany, however, makes a very favorable assessment of its democracy, and relies on professional groups, institutions, media or different economic organizations.
Its opinion about their Courts of Justice is very good and they have a fairly limited perception of corruption.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom shares some features with Germany: level of general confidence, perception of corruption, vision of the Courts of Justice.
On the contrary, it has a strongly critical view of its current democracy, and a low level of confidence in its government institutions and in its media.
You can read the whole study here (in Spanish).