Europeans awake to celebrate the EU on Europe Day but are split on the future of the EU

  • Half of people in nine European countries (including the UK) believe UK will vote to leave the EU
  • Half believe a Brexit would cause others to follow
  • Majorities in France and Italy want to have their own vote on EU membership
  • Four in ten Europeans foresee a reduced EU by 2020

With the British referendum on European Union (EU) membership on 23 June rapidly approaching, a new poll from Ipsos reveals mixed opinions about the future of the EU:

  • Half (47%) of Europeans in nine EU countries believe that Britain will vote to leave the EU;
  • Half (48%) the researched European countries believe a British exit would cause others to follow;
  • Founding EU member countries Italy and France have a majority who want their own vote on EU membership (58% and 55% respectively) and more than four in ten who say they would vote to exit the EU (48% and 41% respectively); and
  • Four in ten (40%) across the European countries surveyed think that there will be a reduced EU by 2020.

The survey of between 500 and 1,000 online adults aged under 65 in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden (plus Britain and five non-European countries including Australia), finds 47% of Europeans think Britain will vote to leave the EU. This figure varies between a majority in Italy and France (60% and 58% respectively) thinking that Britain will vote to leave, to 42% in Germany. In Great Britain itself the number of people who believe that the Brexit vote will prevail is in a minority – 35% of Britons think that Britain will vote to leave the EU.

Q: Thinking about Britain’s referendum on European Union membership, which of the following outcomes do you think is most likely?

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Base: 11030 adults aged 16-64 across  Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United States, April 2016

The idea that ‘Brexit’ might start a domino effect with other countries then leaving the EU is shared by around half (48%) of those in the researched EU countries, and is only slightly less prevalent in countries outside the EU (42%). This is a widely held expectation in Hungary, Sweden, Italy and Germany, of the European countries. But in every country more people agree a domino effect is likely than disagree.

Q: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement? If Britain left the European Union, other countries would follow

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Base: 11030 adults aged 16-64 across Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United States, April 2016

Almost half (45%) of Europeans in the researched countries think their own country should hold a referendum on its EU membership. Again support for a referendum varies, though is never lower than four in ten, from 38% in Hungary to majorities in Italy and France (58% and 55%).

When asked how they would vote if a referendum on their country’s EU membership was held now, a third of Europeans in the selected countries say they would vote for their country to leave the EU. However, this figure differs markedly among the researched EU countries – almost half (48%) of Italians and roughly four in ten Frenchmen and Swedes (41% and 39% respectively) would vote “out” in a referendum on the EU in their country; in comparison, just one in five (22%) Poles would vote for their country to leave the EU if a referendum was organised now.

Q: Do you think your own country should or should not hold a referendum on its European Union membership? How would you vote if your country held such a referendum now?

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Base: 6017 adults aged 16-64 across Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, April 2016

The survey also shows that four in ten (40%) across the European countries surveyed think that there will be a reduced EU by 2020 – either with less integration or having been disbanded altogether, although only 11% foresee this more dramatic scenario. Four in ten (43%) want their countries to work towards reducing the scope of the EU to some extent.

However, those who want a more federal Europe are more pessimistic about their prospects. While again four in ten (39%) want their countries to have a long-term policy of either a more integrated Europe or even a single European government (although again only 15% want this more extreme option), on average only two in ten (22%) think there will be a more federal Europe by 2020. Rather, 39% believe that in 2020 the EU will be the same as today’s version, with the same balance of powers between the EU and individual countries (even though only 18% want their countries to pursue this status quo option).

Q: (1) Do you think the European Union in 2020 will… and (2) What should be the long-term policy of your country?

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Base: 7022 adults aged 16-64 across Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain , Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, April 2016

Finally, when asked about the potential impact of Brexit on Britain and the EU, people think the latter is more likely to lose out. Half of Europeans think Brexit would have a negative impact on the EU’s economy or for the EU’s influence on the world stage (51% and 48% respectively). In comparison, less than two in five think that Brexit would be negative for Britain’s economy or position on the world stage (36% and 38% respectively). Indeed, in five countries people think leaving the EU would actually have a net positive impact on Britain’s economy (India, Italy, Poland, South Africa and the United States), although only two out of the 14 (India and the US) think it would have a net positive impact on Britain’s influence on world affairs.

Q: If Britain did vote to leave the European Union, do you think it would have a positive or negative impact, or make no difference, on…

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Base: 11030 adults aged 16-64 across Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United States, April 2016

Q: If Britain did vote to leave the European Union, do you think it would have a positive or negative impact, or make no difference, on…

brexit_graph06

Base: 11030 adults aged 16-64 across Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United States, April 2016

Australians don’t appear to be particularly engaged in the debate about Britain’s membership in the EU with the key results showing that:

  • Four in ten (42%) believe the Brits will vote to leave the EU;
  • Only a third (33%) believing a British exit would snowball to other EU countries;
  • A third (34%) believing there will be a reduced EU by 2020; and
  • Australians are more likely to think a British exit would be negative for the EU’s economy (39%) than the British economy (26%).

David Elliott from Ipsos (Australia) said:

“The narrowing opinion polls in Britain are indicating a close race as we approach 23 June – but this new study shows Brits are more convinced than most that Brexit isn’t going to happen. It’s interesting to see that internationally, there is fear of a ripple effect following the UK vote with others thinking more countries will follow, and in fact, seeking their own vote on EU membership. The Italians in particular hope to have their own opportunity to go to the polls on their EU membership – which lends a sense that even if the vote does result in the Brits staying in the EU, it is unlikely to be the end of discussion around the future of the EU.”