Memo

New poll: Majority of the electorate would say goodbye to opt-out on legal matters

New poll: Majority of the electorate would say goodbye to opt-out on legal matters

Summary An increasing majority of the electorate wants to abolish the opt-out on legal matters or replace it with an opt-in agreement. This is the result of a new poll conducted among 1018 Danes aged between 18 and 74 years. YouGov carried out the poll for Think Tank EUROPA in October 2014. In July, Think Tank EUROPA conducted a similar poll and since then there has been a clear trend of voters wanting to do away with the 22-year-old opt-out agreement. Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s announcement of a referendum and the subsequent political debate on the opt-out agreement appears to be resonating with voters.
 
In recent months, there have been significant changes in the positions of voters across several political parties. The most significant change has been evident among the Danish People’s Party’s voters. The majority of these voters is now in favour of abolishing the judicial opt-out or replacing it with an opt-in. Among voters from the Social Democrats, the Conservative People’s Party, the Socialist People’s Party and the Liberal Party of Denmark (Venstre), there is still a large majority in favour of abolishing the opt-out or replacing it with an opt-in. In the last three months, more Socialist People’s Party voters have become advocates of changing or abolishing the opt-out. The Liberal Party of Denmark’s voters have also become more engaged, while there has been a small decrease in advocates from the Social Democrats and the Danish Social Liberal Party (Det Radikale Venstre).
 
The poll shows that the Danes have a pragmatic and constructive view on collaborating with the EU on judicial matters and if a referendum is held, in which an opt-in is an option, the result will most likely be a ‘Yes’ to replacing the opt-out with an opt-in. However, a portion of the electorate has still not cemented their position, but even if the ‘don’t know’ voters all end up on voting ‘No’, there will still be a majority in favour of changing the current opt-out.
 
Immigration and asylum policy is the only area in which there is still a majority against Denmark fully cooperating with the EU on legal matters. However, if the political parties agree to an opt-in with the EU, they can keep immigration and asylum policy out of the European political cooperation, and if this option is made available, a large majority of the population would go for replacing the opt-out with an opt-in.
 
In previous memos, Think Tank EUROPA has shown how a national compromise is possible in this area

Main conclusion
  • The government can most likely win a referendum on the opt-out if its goal is to replace it with an opt-in.
  • An increasing majority of voters are in favour of abolishing the opt-out or replacing it with an opt-in. Now, even the Danish People’s Party has more voters in favour of one of the two models mentioned above, rather than keeping the current opt-out.
  • The opt-out has been widely discussed since the summer and it appears that the debate has moved voters towards wanting to make a change to the opt-out.
  • The Danes are in favour of all specific and practical parts of EU legal cooperation, except the cooperation on immigration, asylum and border policy where a majority still wishes to keep Denmark out of the European cooperation.
  • The older the voters are, the more positive they are towards full Danish cooperation with the EU on Justice and Home Affairs. There is a clear generation gap in that far fewer young voters are in favour of fully abolishing the opt-out than older voters, and a third of the young voters are still undecided on the matter.
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