The European Commission’s spring 2009 Eurobarometer poll on public attitudes towards the European Union should be the most interesting in a long while. No such survey has been conducted with Europe’s financial system in such precarious condition and its economic outlook so grim. Large drops in output are forecast everywhere: a 4.9 per cent contraction of the economy this year in Lithuania, 4 per cent in Ireland, 2.3 per cent in Germany, 2 per cent in Italy. To some extent, this will surely be reflected in a blacker public mood across the EU.
Yet in their most recent survey, carried out in autumn 2008, the Commission’s pollsters cautioned that “the division of countries by positive and negative trends does not necessarily reflect the economic outlook in these countries, although some countries show a correlation”. People can have good feelings about the EU, so the argument goes, even if their economies are in recession and they’re losing their jobs.