Memo

Danes unfamiliar with the leading candidates

Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz were leading candidates in 2014

Summary The introduction of leading candidates to the post as European Commission President was a new phenomenon for the European Parliamentary elections in May 2014. The hope was that the leading candidates would make the election closer and more personal, and in turn increase the turnout on polling day.
 
But few Danes knew before they cast their vote that it could indirectly influence the election of the new European Commission President. A new study from the German research institute AMR GmbH Düsseldorf shows that only 18 percent of the Danes were aware that they had an indirect influence, and only 13.5 percent could name at least one of the European parties’ leading candidates. This puts them at the bottom of the table in relation to other EU countries when it comes to knowledge of the leading candidates. But this lack of awareness can be contrasted with studies of other aspects of the EU which show that the Danes are relatively knowledgeable about the EU.
 
The Danes’ lack of knowledge about the leading candidates could be connected to the fact that only few in the press and among the Danish candidates for European Parliament believed that Jean-Clause Juncker, as the leading candidate for the European People’s Party, could end up being the President of the European Commission. The question was treated as a hypothetical, but politically unrealistic, possibility.
 
In this memo, Think Tank EUROPA focuses on the Danes’ awareness of the leading candidates in comparison with the level of knowledge in other EU countries.

Main conclusion
  • 51 percent of Danes are in favour of having an indirect opportunity to choose who becomes the President of the European Commission through the European Parliamentary elections.
  • Only 18 percent of the Danish voters were aware that, through the European Parliamentary elections, they could have an indirect influence on who became the President of the European Commission. They fall under the EU average of 29.8 percent.
  • Danes’ general knowledge about the leading candidates is low. Only 13.5 percent can name at least one of the European parties’ leading candidates. The EU average is 29.4 percent.
  • The general knowledge of the leading candidates is higher among those who voted in the European Parliamentary elections than among those who did not.
  • The leading candidates did not contribute to turning around the several year trend of falling voting rates and did not create a joint European public.
  • At the next European Parliamentary elections a precedence will have been set for the possibility of a lead candidate ending up as the President of the European Commission. This could potentially raise the public’s interest in and knowledge about the leading candidates.
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