The majority of Europeans welcome globalisation – so why do they resent the EU?

New polling undermines claim that Brexit was a vote against globalisation


Britain’s vote to leave the EU was driven by disaffected communities that have been left behind by globalisation.

This interpretation of the result — as a ‘quiet revolution’ against globalisation — has become political gospel in recent months and is at the heart of the government’s policy agenda.

But new polling data from, published today by the think tank Demos, throws this assumption into question.

It finds that across Europe, a clear majority recognise the benefits of globalisation in their countries and for the region as a whole.

In Britain, 59 per cent of people believe that globalisation has had a positive effect on the UK, 52 per cent believe it has benefited their local area, and 58 per cent believe it has been good for Europe.

Across the six countries surveyed (GB, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Spain and France), 63 per cent believed globalisation was good for Europe and 58 per cent believed it was good for their country.

France was the only country where a majority of respondents (50 per cent) felt that globalisation had had a negative impact on their country.

These findings call into question the idea that across the continent political populism is being fuelled by resentment of globalisation, and the Brexit vote was a protest against globalisation.

However, the figures also confirm that Europeans are deeply Eurosceptic and pessimistic about the Union’s prospects.

Britain, unsurprisingly, leads the charge in this respect. 45 per cent favoured leaving the EU as a long-term strategy, almost twice that of any other country.

However, in all six states, a significant segment supported either leaving the EU or reducing its powers (57 per cent in Sweden, 55 per cent in France, 41 per cent in Spain, 40 per cent in Poland, 39 per cent in Germany). 

Forty per cent of all those surveyed are pessimistic about the EU’s prospects over the next year, while just 19 per cent are optimistic.

The research forms part of a larger Demos project, investigating the causes and manifestations of populist and fear-based politics in Europe.

While these figures demonstrate that Europe is gloomy, divided and broadly dissatisfied with the EU, they also suggest that politicians and policy-makers — in Britain as elsewhere — have not correctly identified the causes for popular disaffectation.

See also: Hard Brexiteers have a curious idea about political mandates

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