Finnegan's Take

Europeans ♥ EU2020

Great news: European citizens think the Europe 2020 strategy is brilliant.

Only joking. But sitting in the Commission press room yesterday it seemed there was no end to the good news.

Europeans are enthusiastic about economic governance and give the thumbs up to the priorities set out in the 2020 strategy. Or so said the experienced poachers-turned-gamekeepers who speak for the Commission.

Of course, the truth is that if the question had said anything about “economic governance” or “Europe 2020”, the respondents would have looked blankly at the pollster before backing away slowly.

Ask people if they think improving the education system and creating jobs are important and most people will say “yes, of course”.

That doesn’t mean they (a) know anything about the ‘2020’ policy or (b) think the detailed roadmap set out by Brussels is the best way to achieve the 2020 goals. (Maybe they are, but that’s not the point.)

Everyone is in favour of education and jobs. It’s a matter of how you get there. And asking people in the street about it is empty and pointless. Worse: drawing conclusions based on their answers is knowingly dishonest.

I wrote a piece on it this morning, noting that the Commission had to work hard to spin a positive story out of a very mixed set of results.

There are so many questions in a Eurobarometer it’s easy to pick out something that suits your agenda. Respondents even manage to contradict themselves.

For example, most think sacrifices should be made now to secure the future of the next generations. But ask them if they are personally willing to accept sacrifices and most say they are not.

“Sacrifices must be made. By others, obviously.”

The Eurobarometer can give some insights into consumer confidence and the real-world experiences of citizens during the recession. The fact that 36% of people struggle to pay bills is startling and important.

Asking vague questions which invite predictable answers, and then concluding that the respondants support your political position is wrong. Not to mention expensive.

“Do you like freedom and democracy? You do? Great! Then I presume you’ll love our plan to invade Iraq.”

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