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UK Insights

Understanding the roots of electoral revolt in Europe

Edouard Lecerf

Former Director

Politics 12.12.2016 / 11:05

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How the silent majority found a voice through the ballot box in 2016

From Brexit and the resignation of David Cameron, to the Italian referendum and the resignation of Matteo Renzi, 2016 has been a busy year of political change in Europe. And there is more to come in 2017, with a Dutch general election; British local elections; French presidential elections and German elections.

The team at Kantar Public have been looking back at 2016 and the common roots of this political disruption. They’ve been exploring Eurobarometer data to understand the impact of fears about unemployment, the cost of living and immigration.

Many people regard the results of the 2016 elections across Europe as primarily due to the 2008 recession and its repercussions. Europeans still see unemployment as the main problem their country is facing; two-thirds say the job situation is bad in their country (65%).

This pessimism is also tinged with nostalgia. The majority of Europeans (55%) agree that the quality of life “was better before”. Political parties are widely disparaged; almost eight out of 10 Europeans do not trust them.

Public disaffection and economic unrest is often seen as a catalyst for populism; however, when looking specifically at the UK in the run up to Brexit, Brits displayed some of the highest levels of life satisfaction seen in any EU country – 94% of people were satisfied with the life they led. In the May 2016 Eurobarometer survey, 53% of Brits described the national economic situation as good.

Alex Thornton from Kantar Public UK explains: “This was far from a nation in despair. Rather the mood was driven by a lack of trust in political establishments and a sharp rise in popular concern about immigration. Nearly two thirds (62%) of UK citizens did not trust their own National Government, higher even than the 59% who did not trust the EU. This is nothing new - Eurobarometer has shown trust in political establishments to be steadfastly low in the UK and elsewhere for more than a decade. Prior to Brexit, more than a third (38%) of Brits described immigration as one of the top two issues facing their country. The magnitude for this demands our attention - this made immigration the single biggest issue for the public.”

So what can we say about these ‘silent majorities’ who have been decisive during recent votes, who insist that they are ignored by ‘the elite’ and who certain leaders and parties nevertheless claim to represent? In autumn 2016, a huge 44% of Europeans said that they felt that their voice did not count in their own country. 64% of Europeans who are unemployed and 71% of Europeans who have financial difficulties asserted this. And using the ballot box to disruptive effect has now become a way of making these objections heard, but as Job van de Berg from Kantar Public Netherlands says: “The question remains as to whether these new political parties genuinely represent dissatisfied voters when the elections are over?”

Source : Kantar Public

Editor's Notes

Download the full report by visiting the Kantar Public website. To interview one of our European political experts, please contact us.

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