Analysis

Support for Anti-EU Parties Falls During Pandemic

Mainstream parties have gained popularity. Trust in the EU is up.

European Council
The European Council meets in Brussels, November 25, 2018 (Bundesregierung)

If the coronavirus pandemic is giving Europeans doubts about the EU, it isn’t showing up in support for Euroskeptic parties.

Germany‘s ruling Christian Democrats are up from 33 to 35-37 percent in the polls. The far-right Alternative for Germany is at 9-10 percent, down from 13 percent in the last election. There is no chance it will end up in government.

In Austria, the conservatives have swapped the far-right Freedom Party for the Greens in the ruling coalition. The Freedom Party is polling at 12-16 percent, far below their peak of 26 percent support in 2017.

Mark Rutte is on track to win reelection in the Netherlands. The far-right Forum for Democracy, which narrowly bested Rutte’s liberal party in midterm elections in 2019, has imploded.

In France, support for Marine Le Pen has been stable at 24-27 percent. She received 21 percent in the first round of the presidential election in 2017 and 33 percent in the second round. Her party, National Rally, still hasn’t managed to win more than a handful of seats in parliament.

Vox just voted with the left-wing government in Spain to support businesses hurt by the pandemic. Support for the party is unchanged from the last election at 13-16 percent.

The mainstream right in Sweden has made overtures to the Sweden Democrats, whose support is down from a high of 28 percent before the pandemic to 17-20 percent in recent surveys. The ruling Social Democrats are (finally) taking concerns about immigration and integration seriously, which has helped them bring back voters from the far right.

Denmark‘s Social Democrats are way ahead of them and have won back support from the far-right Danish People’s Party, which is polling at a paltry 5-6 percent, down from a peak of 21 percent in 2015.

Support for Poland‘s ruling Law and Justice party has fallen from a high of 44 percent in the last election to under 35 percent. The liberal Civic Coalition is still faraway in second place with 20-25 percent support, but a new pro-European Christian democratic party, called Poland 2050, is taking another 14-18 percent, followed by The Left at 9-11 percent. Besides, not even Law and Justice wants to leave the EU. Fewer than one in ten Poles do.

Exception

The partial exception is Italy, where support for Matteo Salvini’s far-right League has collapsed since he left the government in 2019 but rightwingers have flocked to the no less Euroskeptic and anti-immigrant Brothers of Italy. Add Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which is still polling at 6-8 percent, and the right could win a majority in the next election, due in 2023.

Many Italians feel the EU abandoned them in their hour of need, when the coronavirus first broke out in the spring. Italy is the only country in the EU where the young are more Euroskeptic than the old.

Mood

But even in Italy, support for the EU is up is up. It is in all but five of the 27 member states. In more than half, people have more faith in the EU than they do in their own governments!

To be fair, those polls were taken before the European Commission botched its vaccine rollout. Maybe the mood will change. I don’t know.

Neither do the people telling you confidently the EU is about to be “killed off“, “beginning to collapse“, “crumbling“, “disintegrating“, “doomed“, “unhinged“, in another “existential crisis” or “threatened in its very future“.

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