Policy paper N°297

European elections: meeting the expectations of a fragmented public opinion in a “new age of uncertainty”

In collaboration with Sciences Po

Cautrès, B. & Chopin, T. “European elections: meeting the expectations of a fragmented public opinion in a “new age of uncertainty””, Policy Paper n°297, Jacques Delors Institute, March 2024

The forthcoming European elections will be a key democratic moment for Europe’s citizens. It will be an important opportunity (every five years) to choose their European representatives directly by universal suffrage. The context in which these elections will take place highlights the challenges facing Europeans, the responses to which may be shaped – at least in part – by the legislative and budgetary choices made in the next legislature over the next five years. The partisan balance of power that will emerge from this election will have an impact not only on the agenda of the future Commission, but more broadly on the direction of European policy up to 2030.

Against this backdrop, citizens are expressing a heightened interest in the forthcoming European elections as a result of the effects of the recent crises and also due to a form of “normalisation” of European political life. They are expressing concerns and expectations that will constitute political priorities at the heart of their demand for democracy: concern and very strong pessimism on the socio-economic front, due to inflation and the stagnation of activity resulting from the energy crisis; defence of their purchasing power, their health, the fight against climate change, defence of their security, immigration and asylum, which currently rank ninth among the priorities identified. Faced with the return of war to the European continent, diplomatic and trade tensions between the United States and China, the climate emergency and the acceleration of technological, energy and digital transformations, Europeans are becoming aware of the need to strengthen European cooperation in these areas. Over the long term, opinion polls show that there is strong public support for common European policies in areas affecting “European common goods” such as energy and defence.

However, we need to go further in understanding Europeans’ attitudes to European integration. The distinction between ‘diffuse’ and ‘specific’ support means that attachment to the principles of European integration (‘diffuse’ support), on the one hand, and evaluations or demands in terms of public policy (‘specific’ support), on the other, cannot be placed on the same analytical footing.