Solidarity among Europeans. But Brits are different.

Europeans show strong sense of solidarity” – it seemed a counter-intuitive headline (in a tweet from @svaroschi) in these times of social strife. The story was Deutsche Welle’s coverage of some new research conducted by the Open Society Foundations. The summary of the research is here (although that makes no specific mention of the UK), and the full results tables are here (PDF). The research is the basis of a new campaign – Solidarity Now – urging support for the people of Greece. This video is their launch pitch:

More importantly, what does the research show?

The survey polled roughly 1000 people in each of France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK, asking (among other questions) people to choose between: “European countries need to show solidarity and work together in order to tackle current economic and social challenges across Europe” and “Individual European countries should look after their own interests first and foremost when tackling the current economic and social challenges, and not assume that working together is always for the best“. The results here are striking. Clear majorities opted for the first statement in FR, DE, IT and ES (the score was 56.6% in Germany), while the numbers for the UK were reversed – 35.3% in favour of the first statement, 64.7% in favour of the latter. Data is on page 2 of the PDF.

On further questions, British responses corresponded more closely with the other four countries, with 2/3 agreeing with “Ordinary people in countries like Greece are unfairly suffering the consequences of a crisis that they didn’t create”, and more than 90% agreeing with “Politicians across Europe have lost touch with the suffering of ordinary people across Europe in the wake of the financial crisis”. More than 5% more Brits (44% vs. mid-30s for the other 4 countries) agreed that “Ordinary people across Europe share a lot of responsibility for the current economic and social problems so it’s only fair they bear a lot of the burden”.

I’m not sure quite what conclusions to draw from all of this. By virtue of being in the Eurozone, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are obliged to find more EU-wide solutions to the economic problems of those countries, so politically the UK is a bit of a special case. However I wonder how much the harsh discourse – both about the EU, and nationally about welfare and state dependency – plays a role in explaining the UK figures as well?

Anyway, for social democrats facing the European Parliament elections in 2014 the numbers in the four Eurozone countries must be a source of relief, while – as so often – the numbers show the UK out on a limb.

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