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A new report points to the limitations of Eurobarometer surveys and proposes a way forward

A new report, “What Does Europe Fear”, raises serious questions about the accuracy and validity of the Eurobarometer series of public opinion surveys. Eurobarometer encompasses a series of questionnaires conducted twice a year since 1974 in every member state of the European Union on behalf of the European Commission and other related institutions. 


Professor Bill Durodié, the report's author, said:

“Unsurprisingly, many Eurobarometer questions relate to how respondents view the European Union, its institutions, policies and trajectory. This has led to some blurring of the line between research and propaganda, leading to unintended limitations and more conscious manipulation. 

Even more significantly, our report shows how the selection and framing of questions and response options have been held to promote “integrationist” outcomes. This has also included only allowing positive opinions to be visible, avoiding particular topics, and removing questions that delivered more critical responses. Overall, the process aligns with one that symbolically creates “a European public opinion that hardly exists empirically.” 

Professor Frank Furedi, Executive Director of the think tank MCC Brussels, author of the book “How Fear Works”, and who commissioned the report, said

“Most surveys examined in our report tell us that ordinary people appear to have been consistent over a remarkably long period in prioritising economic issues – employment, wages, and prices – over other matters of concern.

There is a clear divergence between people’s fears and elites' concerns. When not manipulated, the former focuses on more immediate matters about jobs, health, and education. At the same time, the latter is preoccupied with more esoteric  issues, such as climate change and cybersecurity, and a more recent focus on identity.

However, this chasm between the elites and the people cannot continue indefinitely. Indeed, in some areas such as education or environment policies, there is a clear push back. What is really at play here is a clash of values between different social groups” 

Professor Bill Durodié concludes;

“Our report shows that despite public opinion survey claims, there is no clear indication of what ‘the public’ thinks. Often, this is purposefully constructed or elicited to suit pre-determined agendas. Moreover, when choices are offered, these are crafted according to elite priorities and concerns.  Our report proposes the need to conduct objective research, sensitising ourselves towards dispositions and latent opinions and semi-consciously and self-consciously unarticulated views. We must commission and conduct surveys into people’s fears and concerns.”