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The divided continent: Understanding Europe’s social landscape in 2020 and beyond

Sophia Gaston

Date: 11/02/2020
The political upheaval and dysfunction of recent years have focused political minds on better understanding the volatility underpinning European electorates. Interest in public opinion research has soared, yet it can be difficult to draw the findings of such surveys and focus groups into something meaningful and cohesive, from which genuine insights can be drawn. It is pertinent that policymakers at both the national and EU institutional levels grasp a clear and incisive idea of what is taking place culturally, socially and politically in EU member states, and that these tea leaves can be interpreted and harnessed to produce responsive, targeted policies.

This research analysis report sets out the findings of a major survey conducted across 13 EU member states (i.e. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands), which were selected to provide a representative snapshot of the bloc as a whole. This survey was expansive in its scope and unique in its focus on social and cultural issues, as well as politics, leadership and economic security. The data is interpreted through three distinct themes, each of which is likely to play a critical role in Europe’s ‘mood music’ over its coming parliamentary term: nostalgia, intergenerational conflict and democratic legitimacy. These themes have become the subject of much amateur punditry, although institutional understanding of their complex nature is often shallow. Therefore, this paper seeks to shine a more evidenced-based contextual light around their formation and nuances of application.

You can find the key results of the survey here

You can find the full report here.

This report forms part of the broader “Listening to Europe” project, which has been led by European Movement International with the support of the Open Society Initiative for Europe. The survey at the heart of this report was designed by political analyst Dr Matthew C. MacWilliams and a consortium of researchers, analysts and pollsters, including this report’s author. The fieldwork was executed by YouGov. The author thanks the Open Society Foundations for their support for this research project. Any errors are the author’s own.

The support the European Policy Centre receives for its ongoing operations, or specifically for its publications, does not constitute an endorsement of their contents, which reflect the views of the authors only. Supporters and partners cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Photo credits:
Gerard Julien / AFP

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