Exploring referendum results

A new Eurobarometer survey just published explores the results of the French and Dutch referenda on the European Constitution in an attempt to throw some light on why citizens voted as they did. The citizens of France and the Netherlands rejected the EU's new proposed Constitution - 54.8% against in France on 29 May, and 61.6% against in the Netherlands on 1 June. The failed referenda are widely seen as a turning point in the European construction process, which is also held up by disagreements over the Union's budget for the 2007-2013 period. This new survey demonstrates that the public across Europe tends to increasingly identify the Union with too much economic liberalism, and there is also a perceptible dissatisfaction with Brussels and a growing resentment to the EU's enlargement.

According to Eurobarometer, the majority of those who supported the Constitution were aged 55 or older (54% of all voters in France and 48% of all voters in the Netherlands). Among those who voted Yes, the most often cited spontaneous explanation was that the Constitution is "essential in order to pursue the European construction (France: 39%, Netherlands: 24%)

Among those who voted No, the relative majority of French citizens cited their fear of the Constitution's harmful effect on employment (31%) and the current status of their country's economy and the labour market (26%). Many French voters who chose Non also thought that the Constitution was "too liberal" (19%) or not "social" enough (16%). Among the Nee voters in Holland, the relative majority cited "lack of information" (32%) and they also cited their fear of a loss of national sovereignty (19%) or complained about the cost of Europe for taxpayers (13%)

In the Eurobarometer samples, 88% of the French and 82% of the Dutch respondents voiced their conviction that EU membership was a good thing. At the same time, while the French (along with the Spanish) widely support the notion of a Constitution for Europe being essential for European construction, the Dutch are far less convinced and most of them disagree

Overall, opinions on the European institutions are fairly negative: while 53% of the French saw them in a positive light, 61% of the Dutch respondents saw them in a negative light. Elsewhere in the EU, public support for the Constitution is on the wane too. In Portugal, a recent poll showed that 49.2% of the citizens would vote against the Constitution. Popular support for the Yes camp is decreasing in Luxembourg and Denmark. Both countries aim to hold a referendum on the issue in July and September, respectively. Some 57% of the public in Poland would support the Constitution, down from over 60% in May. Recent surveys in the Czech Republic and Ireland also show a slump in public support.

Read the Flash Eurobarometer reports: "The European Constitution : post-referendum survey in the Netherlands" (pdf – 829Kb) and "The European Constitution : post-referendum survey in France" (pdf – 555Kb); In Europe, division between old and new - Judy Dempsey for the International Herald Tribune writes that "Many West Europeans did not really absorb enlargement last year. Now, they are keenly aware of it, and fear the EU may be aggravating the threats of globalization by opening borders to cheaper labor and cheaper products."; Two visions for Europe; Immanuel Wallerstein on the ambiguous French 'No' to the European Constitution; From Wired Temples: A Pro-European NO?; Europe, Malta and the Labour Party; Alfred Sant writes To ratify or not to ratify; What the Maltese think about the EU: interview with the Malta Independent on Sunday about the results of the Eurobarometer report on Malta.

Top Ten Euro-cliches for journalists from Observer Blog - 'Malta is too plucky for words'


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