Who Wins Europeans' Contempt? National Leaders Beat EU Officials

  • Poll shows confidence in EU is low, in national leaders lower
  • U.K. majority favors migration from elsewhere in 28-nation EU

Who do Europeans trust least: the European Union or their national governments?

The answer, on a continent in thrall to rising nationalist fervor, might come as a surprise: while a mere 32 percent trust EU institutions, only 27 percent look up to their national leaders.

The EU-wide poll, published Wednesday in Brussels, showed that backing for common European policies remains strong after a year dominated by migration, terrorism, Greece’s near-expulsion from the euro and Britain’s threatened pullout from the EU.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker put Europe’s woes in perspective at a summit last week. Asked by a reporter whether 2015 was the EU’s worst year ever, Juncker, 61, said: “You’re too young to know that -- and so am I.”

EU authorities, often derided as faceless and distant, scored higher on trust in 16 countries, including Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban has relentlessly laid into Brussels for its perceived failings.

Cameron’s Disconnect

National leaders were deemed more trustworthy in 10 countries, including the U.K. But the British numbers aren’t exactly comforting for Prime Minister David Cameron: while only 23 percent trust the EU, the national government’s score is only 31 percent.

EU and national leaders were tied in two countries.

British views of immigration also came across as more nuanced than in the debate over the U.K.’s possible exit from the bloc, in which the dominant issue is Cameron’s effort to curb welfare payments to EU citizens working in Britain.

A majority of the British -- 51 percent -- have “positive” feelings about immigrants from other EU countries, the poll showed. That support dwindles to 39 percent when the British are asked about foreigners from outside the EU.

The twice-yearly Eurobarometer poll was conducted between Nov. 7-17 with about 1,000 interviews in each of the EU’s 28 member states. The margin of error ranged from 1.4 to 3.1 percentage points.

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