Paper

Danish Attitudes Towards the EU are Diverse

holdning til eu danskere

Summary The "EU" is not one unique entity to the Danes, as individual citizens vary significantly in their opinions towards different apects of the EU, such as membership, opt-outs and sovereignty. Age, gender and openness to other cultures or expert opinions can have significant implications for some, but not all, attitudes towards the EU, as shown in the results of a recent survey conducted by Think Tank EUROPA.
 
Danes are on the one hand very satisfied with EU membership and on the other very sceptical of sovereignty transfer. This approach to the EU is remarkably stringent, meaning that the Danes view the EU as an excellent cooperation as long as it does not interfere too much with the Danish way of doing things. It is the large segment of the population that favours membership but opposes sovereignty transfers that will determine the outcome of future Danish referendums on EU opt-outs, as most Danes see a close link between having opt-outs and safeguarding sovereignty.
 
The survey indicates that opt-outs have a special status among Danes.  It is far more difficult to create a profile of a “typical” citizen based on attitudes towards the opt-outs than on the basis of attitudes towards membership and sovereignty. The resistance against abolishing opt-outs cuts across traditional divisions.
 
The survey also shows that the Danes perceive immigration and Islamic terrorism as far greater threats to sovereignty than the EU. However, the EU is not necessarily perceived as a helping hand in dealing with immigration. The majority of respondents nevertheless believes in European solutions, rather than national solutions, when it comes to immigration and terrorism.

Main conclusion
  • A new survey on Danes' opinions towards the EU paints a current and detailed picture of “who believes what” – about EU membership, EU opt-outs and sovereignty in today's Denmark.
  • The survey confirms, at an aggregated level, the well-known perception of a strong and stable backing for EU membership combined with high and stable scepticism of transfer sovereignty and abolishing the Danish EU opt-outs.
  • Women and men are equally optimistic about EU membership, but women are significantly more conflicted when it comes to the opt-outs. This is evident in the finding that fewer women want to abolish the opt-outs – rather than that there are fewer women who want to keep them.
  • Young people are also much more in doubt about the EU than other age groups. Among the young people who have an opinion, there is a clear overproportion of EU supporters, a representative distribution in terms of reservations over the EU, and less reluctance towards sovereignty transfer.
  • Highly educated people are backing the EU. Education is consistently the most significant factor linked with positive perceptions of the EU. Income, on the other hand, does not seem to be as important in relation to EU attitudes.
  • Voters who support the Liberals, the Socialist People’s Party, the Social Liberals, the Liberal Alliance and the Alternative party are the biggest advocates of Danish EU membership. The Danish People's Party is the only party in the parliament with a majority of voters who want to leave the EU.
  • Those who are dissatisfied with their own living standards are more likely to be strong opponents of the EU and sovereignty transfer than those who are satisfied. And those who state that they “do not like to interact with a variety of other cultures” have more critical attitudes towards the EU than others.
  • In addition, there is an interesting link between attitudes to expert statements and EU positions; those who do not listen to expert statements differ significantly from the rest of the respondents in being critical of EU membership.
  • A multivariate analysis shows that the EU opt-outs are the main concern that unites Danes across communities and social groupings. It is far more difficult to create a profile of a citizen based on attitudes towards the opt-outs than on the basis of attitudes towards membership and sovereignty.
  • Overall, the survey shows that Danish EU opinions are far from black and white, as many Danes take individual positions on membership, opt-outs and sovereignty.
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