FRANKFURT, Germany – A wide-ranging survey shows that public approval of the European Union has rebounded strongly compared with a year ago but that many people nonetheless think their own national governments — and not the EU — should have the say over trade and immigration.
The poll results from the U.S.-based Pew Research Center show that majorities in nine of 10 EU member countries surveyed now hold a favorable view of the 28-country economic and political bloc.
The research center says the upswing is the latest shift in an up-and-down cycle over the past decade. The more favorable view comes as Europe enjoys a broadening economic recovery and falling unemployment.
Results show 74 percent approval in Poland, 68 percent in Germany, 67 percent in Hungary, and 65 percent in Sweden. There were sharp swings from last year, with approval of the EU up 18 percentage points in Germany, 15 points in Spain, 13 points in the Netherlands, and 10 points in the U.K.
The overall median breakdown across the countries was 63 percent favorable, 34 percent unfavorable. Last year the median figures were 51 percent favorable, 47 percent unfavorable.
The only dissenter was Greece, which has been subjected to severe budget austerity measures imposed by fellow EU states, at 33 percent favorable. Yet even there, when asked if they wanted to leave the European Union, 54 percent said they would rather stay, to 35 percent who favored leaving.
Italy was the other country surveyed where leaving the EU was supported by a substantial minority of 35 percent. Italy has shown weak economic growth since joining the euro currency in 1999 and remains burdened with high government debt, excessive bureaucracy and red tape, and poor prospects of permanent jobs for young people leaving school.
In the U.K., where a year ago voters chose narrowly to leave the EU, 54 percent had a positive view of the EU compared with 40 percent who had a negative view.
Asked if leaving was a good or a bad thing for the U.K., people in Britain were broadly divided. Slightly more — 48 percent — said leaving was a bad thing, while 44 percent said leaving was a good thing.
In the June 2016 referendum, 52 percent of voters supported leaving the EU to 48 percent for remaining. On Monday, the country will officially start talks to leave the bloc.
The EU is an economic and political union that is now the world's largest single market, where products can move freely across borders without tariffs. People can travel from one country to another without border controls and it has become easier for people to live, work, study or retire in another member country.
The Pew Research Center compiled responses from 9,935 people in France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom from March 2 to April 17, 2017. Margins of error ranged from 3.7 percent plus or minus to 5.2 percent plus or minus. The questions were asked face to face in several countries and by calling mobile and landline numbers in others.
The results pre-date last week's parliamentary election in Britain, which resulted in a setback for pro-Brexit Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives. They lost their majority and must form a coalition with the small Democratic Unionist Party based in Northern Ireland.
The numbers indicated many people wanted national governments, not the EU, to determine immigration and trade policy. Yet 66 percent wanted their own governments to decide who could come in from other EU countries, while 27 favored the EU making decisions. In 2015, 1.4 million people migrated from one EU state to another.