Trust in the EU and National Parliaments

February 8, 2012
By

(This article was first published on The PolStat R Feed, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

I have been playing around with some data from Eurobarometer, to support some arguments for a small comment I am writing for the Maastricht Law Review. I got the data for the following two questions:

  1. I would like to ask you a question about how much trust you have in certain institutions. For each of the following institutions, please tell me if you tend to trust it or tend not to trust it? The EU?
  2. I would like to ask you a question about how much trust you have in certain institutions. For each of the following institutions, please tell me if you tend to trust it or tend not to trust it? The NATIONAL parliament

I wanted to compare how trust in national parliaments compared to trust in the EU. Basically the aim was to compare how trust in the foremost national political institution compared to the foremost supranational institution in Europe. Luckily the Eurobarometer has asked the above questions in most surveys from 2004 to 2011, hence they capture the financial crisis and the boom period before the financial crisis. As a first look at the data, the plot below show the EU average for the two questions:

Not surprisingly on average the national parliaments are trusted more than the EU, but I was surprised to see that the average level of trust is way below 50% for the EU in most of the period.

To have a finer look at the data, I also looked at how the levels of trust for Ireland, Greece and Portugal - the countries most affected by the financial crisis:

Here we see an interesting "cross" pattern in the period where the financial crisis erupts over Europe. For Greece and Portugal the financial crisis seem to have eroded the trust citizens have in their national parliaments quite substantially, and the parliaments have not yet recovered from the shock. For Ireland the level of trust in the EU is briefly above the the trust in the parliament, however the parliament quickly recovers from the shock. I wonder if this can be explained by how the Irish government handled the crisis, compared to Portugal and Greece?

Finally, out of curiosity I also looked at how Denmark fared with regards to trust in the national parliament and the EU.

In the EU literature Denmark is always characterized as a staunchly eurosceptic country, however the data from the Eurobarometer surveys show that there is a massively higher degree of trust in the EU than the national parliament. This surprised me a lot! I wonder if either the characterization of Denmark as massively eurosceptic is wrong, or whether euroscepticism is not necessarily related to trust in the EU?

As usual here is the data and the R script:

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