Brussels has turned its back on the most infected countries

The coronavirus pandemic has posed challenges seen long ago to both the national governments of Europe and the European Union. Thus, it is not surprising that in recent months, public life on the continent has been determined by debates about slowing the spread of the pandemic and addressing its negative consequences. In view of the health and economic challenges posed by the coronavirus, Századvég conducted a representative poll of 30,000 people in 30 countries on the continent between 7 September and 15 October. The survey examined population attitudes towards the spread of the pandemic and the pandemic management performance of the European Union and individual countries.

The people of Europe have a realistic view of the pandemic situation.

It can be stated that, despite the activities of the groups of the virus sceptics and those that minimize the importance of the pandemic, the European population is realistic about the threat posed by the coronavirus. The survey found that 84 percent of the European respondents were concerned about the problem of the spread of the pandemic, and only 15 percent expressed a different view.

Citizens of Spain (94 percent), Sweden (89 percent) and France (86 percent), among others, are particularly concerned about the pandemic, which cannot be separated from the fact that the countries in question are among the most infected ones in Europe.

There is more moderate, but not negligible, concern in Central European states. In Bulgaria, 71 percent of the respondents, while in Slovakia and Slovenia, 70 and 67 percent, respectively, expressed concern about the spread of the pandemic. Similarly, in Hungary, 75 percent of those surveyed were concerned about the situation caused by the coronavirus, while 24 percent were of a different opinion.


Europeans trust national governments

With the spread of the coronavirus, European countries have introduced various safety, health and economic recovery measures, targeting the pandemic being kept under control and the mitigation of its negative consequences. Overall, the majority of the European respondents (51 percent) were satisfied with the crisis management performance of their countries, while 47 percent were dissatisfied. The survey reveals that the citizens of 21 European countries consider the work of their governments to be adequate in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, while the majority of the respondents in 9 countries are dissatisfied with it. It can be stated that the rather favourable views of the population can mostly be attributed to those European countries where the spread of the pandemic is managed to keep under control. Accordingly, while 66 percent of the Spanish, 65 percent of the French and 56 percent of the Belgian respondents question the effectiveness of the government measures taken, in Finland and Denmark this proportion is only 22 and 20 percent, respectively. In Hungary, 61 percent of the respondents are satisfied with the way the government handles the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, while 38 percent of them have a different opinion.


People expect more effective action from Brussels

The survey also covered the assessment of the European Union’s activities regarding the management of the pandemic. Forty-eight percent of the European respondents consider the European Union’s management of the pandemic to be adequate, while 44 percent think it was poor. The research shows that the higher the number of the registered infections in a country, the more negative the respondents are about Brussels’ crisis management regarding the pandemic. It is shown that only 39 percent of the respondents in the five countries with the highest infection rates in the European Union (France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium) are satisfied with Brussels’ epidemiological performance. Interestingly, 55 percent of the French and 61 percent of the Spanish respondents are satisfied with the European Union’s management of the pandemic. In light of this, it can be stated that the Member States where critical conditions have developed as a result of the pandemic situation expect more effective action from Brussels. Fifty-two percent of the Hungarian respondents were positive about the activities of the European Union regarding the coronavirus pandemic, while 40 percent expressed a different opinion.


A similar picture can be seen of the European Union’s assistance in overcoming the economic difficulties caused by the coronavirus. The importance of this issue is given by the fact that some Member States have not been effective in combatting the spread of the coronavirus by using their own resources, so it would be crucial for them to have adequate financial support for the defence from the European Union. According to the survey, 51 percent of the European citizens are satisfied with the way Brussels is helping to overcome the economic problems caused by the pandemic, while 47 percent are dissatisfied with it. It can also be said that a correlation between the satisfaction rate and the severity of the pandemic can be observed, with only 39 percent of the citizens in the five most infected European countries having a positive view of the EU economic aid. It can be stated that only 40 percent of the Italians are satisfied with Brussels’ economic aid, while in France and Belgium the proportions are 36 and 34 percent, respectively. Half of the Hungarian respondents (50 percent) consider the EU assistance in overcoming the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic to be adequate, while 38 percent are dissatisfied with Brussels’ measures in question. In light of all this, it can be stated that Hungarians are less satisfied with the economic assistance of the European Union than the European average.


The Project Europe research

In the first half of 2016, the Századvég Foundation conducted a public opinion poll survey covering all 28 European Union Member States, with the aim to analyse the opinions of EU citizens regarding the issues that most affect the future of the EU. In a unique way, Project28 conducted the widest possible survey of 1,000, that is a total of 28,000 randomly selected adults in each country. Gaining an understanding of society’s sense of prosperity and mapping the population’s attitudes towards the performance of the European Union, the migration crisis and the increasing terrorism were among the most important goals of the analysis. The Századvég Foundation, on behalf of the Hungarian Government, conducted the research again in 2017, 2018 and 2019, which continued to reflect on the topics that most determined the European political and social discourse.

In 2020, the survey, now called the Project Europe, will continue, with the aim of mapping the population’s attitude towards the most important public issues affecting our continent. In addition to society’s sense of prosperity, the performance of the European Union and the attitudes towards the migration crisis, in line with the latest challenges affecting Europe, the dominant theme of this year’s poll is the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and anti-Semitism. In addition to the European Union Member States, the 2020 research covered the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland, interviewing a total of 30,000 randomly selected adults using the CATI method.

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