Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Europhobic or Euroignorant?

The eurosceptic EU Referendum blog points me in the direction of The Foreign Policy Centre's website, and a pdf download entitled "The Referendum Battle". It is, as EU Referendum points out, effectively a plan of attack for the "yes" campaign, and as such looks like interesting reading. (Well, interesting if you're interested in that sort of thing - otherwise it's probably mind-numbingly tedious...)

Some bits, in a vague attempt at a summary of a 42-page document which I don't really have time to read properly:

"At present a major disadvantage for the 'yes' cmpaign is the widespread ignorance about the European constitutional treaty in particular and the EU ingeneral. This allows the euro-sceptic press to print scare stories and misinformation about the EU including the claims that the constitution will be a threat to national identity and will lead to a European super state... MORI shows that the more people know about the EU, the more likely they are in favour of it."

Us British are insular nationalists. Hurrah! (No indication of regional splits, however, or of the relative levels of support/opposition in Scotland and Wales compared to England, or of how ethnic minority voters feel about the situation, although there are later gender, age, political party allegiance and social class comparisons...)

"most Britons do not think of themselves as European - 62 per cent consider themselves 'British not European' rather than partly or totally European. this is easily the highest level among the EU15 average of 40 per cent... in the same survey 55 per cent of Britons declared themselves 'very proud to be British'... the corresponding figures for the French and Germans were 38 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. In such a climate of opinion, a supra-national body whose opponents portray it as weakening British nationality and independence needs to argue a strong case to gain acceptance."

But it's not all doom and gloom:

"On none of the three issues [the constitution, the euro and continued EU membership] have even half the public definitely made up their minds."

"Hostility to the EU does not necessarily imply opposition to a constitution which will in some ways restrict its operations. Indeed... Britain is in favour of 'a constitution for the European Union' by 42 per cent to 24 per cent. But there seems to be much less support for the specific constitution now being proposed - or, at east, for that constitution as it is perceived, filtered through the reporting of the British media and interpreted by its political supporters and opponents."

One to make us smarty-pants types feel smug:

"Support... increases the higher the level of educational achievement. People with no formal qualifications are nine times more likely to say they strongly oppose the constitution than strongly support it."

And some hope for the "yes" campaign":

"there is a qualitative difference between the majority of strong opposers of the constitution and those who are 'generally opposed' but might change their minds - they differ not just in strength of vies on a single scale but in the whole foundation of those views" two-thirds of committed opponents are anti-EU in principle, while the same is true of only a handful of waverers. The latter must not be treated as if they are simply a more moderate version of the hard-line Eurosceptics, but recognised as a different species of voter altogether."

The major problem:

"Almost three-quarters of the public assess their knowledge of 'the european Union, its policies, its institutions and bodies' at 5 or less on a 10-point scale. More objective measurements of knowledge point in the same direction. Only 41 per cent of the british public have even heard of the EU Council of Ministers; 55 per cent say positively that they have not..."

"The British public's acceptance that it has a low degree of knowledge of Europe's political institutions has several implications. First, it may lead to an underestimation of the Eu's real importance, thereby reducing the issue's salience (and feeding a vicious circle of further reluctance to find out more about it). This also implies a low level engagement with European political institutions, and low turnout at European elections, and perhaps also at the referendums."


"this feeling that, in the normal routine, Europe is not an issue to be worried about seems to relect a perception that, at the moment at least, the EU is not important. Also... MORI found that the European Union is seen as having less impact on people's everyday lives than either national or local political institutions, and less than the media and business."


In other words, eurosceptic claims of Brussels bureaucracy interfering in people's lives are not believed. There is hope for us yet...

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