A survey indicates that European voters are divided into five distinct groups due to ongoing crises.
A recent survey indicates that voters in Europe are now categorized into five separate groups rather than the traditional left or right, or pro- or anti-EU. This could have a significant impact on the upcoming elections in the region, with each tribe having their own conflicting priorities.
The report states that Europeans have experienced significant challenges in the past few years, including the climate crisis, the 2015 migration crisis, economic instability, the conflict in Ukraine, and Covid. It suggests that voters in both European parliament and national elections this year will prioritize the crisis that they feel most personally impacted by.
The authors of the report claim that the five crises had an impact throughout Europe, though the severity varied in different areas of the continent. Many Europeans saw them as a significant threat to their existence and they greatly influenced government policies. These crises are far from being resolved.
According to co-author Mark Leonard, the main conflict in 2019 was between populists who sought to reject European integration and mainstream parties who aimed to preserve the European project from Brexit and Trump.
According to Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations thinktank based in Berlin, the upcoming competition will involve fears surrounding increasing temperatures, immigration, inflation, and military conflict.
Ivan Krastev, from the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, stated that the research revealed a shift in citizens’ perception of the EU. Rather than being influenced by traditional notions of right and left, their opinions are now shaped by their perspectives on current crises.
The study, titled “A Personal Crisis: How Trauma Affects Europe’s Election Year Politics,” proposes that traditional political parties may face difficulties in engaging voters on topics like the future of the European Union. Instead, the study suggests that these parties should focus on addressing and offering solutions for the most pressing concerns of voters.
According to the report’s authors, the climate crisis and immigration will be the main factors driving election campaigns in Europe in 2024, as seen in the recent Dutch parliamentary election in November.
The Dutch electorate ranked Geert Wilders’ anti-immigrant Freedom party (PVV) as the top choice, while the Green-Labour alliance, led by former European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, came in second place.
“The conflict between these two groups can be seen as a battle between two movements fighting for their own survival,” stated the writers. “Those advocating for climate action are concerned about the potential extinction of human and other species, while those opposing migration fear the loss of their nations and cultural heritage.”
Citizens who consider immigration to be the most pressing issue are more likely to support conservative parties like France’s National Rally or Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). On the other hand, those who prioritize the environment tend to back green or left-leaning parties such as Spain’s Socialists or Poland’s Left.
According to the authors, a major political impact of this was the process of “Europeanisation” of migration, as the EU attempted to address concerns of voters. At the same time, right-wing groups took steps to “renationalise” the discussion on reducing global warming.
In addition to the upcoming European parliament election in June, voters in 15 European nations, such as Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Croatia, Lithuania, and the UK, will also participate in national parliamentary and presidential elections this year.
According to a survey of nine EU member states, which make up 75% of the bloc’s population, as well as Great Britain and Switzerland, approximately 73.4 million European voters consider the climate emergency to be the most pressing crisis impacting their future.
Around 72.8 million individuals believed that Covid-19, which revealed the weaknesses of national healthcare systems and had significant economic impacts, was the most significant issue. 69.3 million people stated that global economic instability was their top concern, while 58.2 million prioritized immigration, 49 million considered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the main concern, and 46.4 million did not choose any of the five options.
The research discovered that these groups of voters were not equally spread out in terms of location, age, or education. For instance, German voters were most concerned about immigration being a significant issue (31%), while French voters focused more on climate change (27%).
In Italy and Portugal, two countries that were heavily impacted by the 2008 financial crash and the subsequent eurozone crisis, a majority (34%) of participants stated that their top concerns were global economic instability and the increasing cost of living.
Concerns over Russia’s conflict with Ukraine were highest in countries in close proximity to the conflict. In Estonia, 40% of respondents viewed it as the most significant crisis, followed by Poland at 31% and Denmark at 29%. In comparison, only 7% of respondents in France and Italy, and 6% in Spain and Great Britain, saw it as the most important crisis.
Among different age groups, the younger generation prioritized addressing the climate crisis, with 24% of 18-29 year olds viewing it as the most critical issue for their future. This demographic also ranked immigration as their least significant concern at only 9%.
The older generations, specifically 50-69-year-olds and those aged 70 and above, were most concerned about immigration as a crucial issue. 13% and 16% of these age groups respectively ranked it as their top concern. For highly educated voters, the biggest concern was the climate crisis, with 22% citing it as their chief worry.
For supporters of far-right parties in countries where they are not in power immigration was the issue that had most changed the way they look at their future, for example Reconquête (76%) in France, AfD in Germany (66%) and Reform in Great Britain (63%).
In nations where the far right holds political power, such as Italy, only about 10% of those surveyed viewed immigration as their top concern. This includes just 17% of voters aligned with Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, and her political party, Brothers of Italy.
The authors of the study stated that the 2024 European parliament elections will focus on projections rather than projects. They also noted that each of Europe’s five crises will play a significant role in the elections, potentially determining their fate.
The upcoming European election will involve more than just a rivalry between the left and right sides, as well as between those who are skeptical of the European Union and those who support it. It will also be a struggle for dominance among the various groups impacted by Europe’s ongoing crises.