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Solidarity demonstration for Palestinians in Brussels. Alamy Stock Photo
crisis

The EU's Israel-Gaza response has been poor according to two-thirds of Irish voters

The negative feeling is most keenly felt among younger people.

THE EUROPEAN UNION’S standing has been damaged among three-in-four Irish young people as a result of the bloc’s response to the current conflict in Gaza.

In the first poll on voting preferences and sentiment ahead of June’s European elections, The Journal/Ireland Thinks found that those surveyed across all aged groups were markedly unsatisfied with the EU’s handling of the conflict.

The response of EU leadership figures to the deadly 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel and the death and destruction in Gaza that has followed has sparked tensions among different member states.

In the day’s following the Hamas attack, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the European Union stood with Israel “today and in the days to come” and “in the next weeks”.

Her comments and her subsequent trip to Israel were judged by some, including Irish MEPs, to be akin to giving unconditional support to military action.

Following an EU Council meeting in December, the summit ended without a decision to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, despite the urging of Ireland and some other nations.

The disconnect between the wider view in the EU and the view of Irish voters is reflected in this latest poll.

When asked to rate on a scale from 1-5 (1 being ‘very bad’ and 5 being ‘very good’) how they rated the EU’s performance on Israel/Gaza, by far the most popular selection (44%) was 1.

The average rating across all voters was 2.

Only 11% gave a score (4 or 5) which would be categorised as positive while negative marks made up two-thirds of those surveyed. Those who landed in the middle at 3 made up 22% of respondents.

As well as rating the EU’s performance on the issue, a separate question also probed whether their “view of the EU had changed since the escalation of the conflict”.

In response to that question, over half (51%) say their opinion of the EU had either ‘somewhat disimproved’ or ‘much disimproved’.

The largest single cohort, at 43%, however said that their opinion of the EU had not changed as a result of the conflict.

The polling also provides a breakdown of responses across a number of different categories, including age and party allegiance, and shows noteworthy differences across different age groups.

Among 18-34 year-olds, 75% of those surveyed said that their views on the EU have disimproved as a result of the conflict. By comparison, the corresponding figure among the 45-54 age group was 45%.

In terms of party allegiance, the highest average rating for the EU’s performance on the conflict came from Fine Gael voters, who rated the performance at 2.7 out of 5.

The lowest rating was from Solidarity-PBP voters at 1.2, whereas the average rating across all voters was 2.

Ukraine

The poll also gauged sentiment on a number of other issues relevant to the upcoming EU elections, with those surveyed asked about Ukraine’s application to join the EU and the prospect of that application being fast-tracked.

There was overall enthusiasm for Ukraine’s membership, with 72% being in favour, a figure that’s made up of 33% favouring a fast-tracked application and 39% favouring a regular application.

One in five people (20%) were not in favour of Ukraine’s membership of the EU, but again there were some noteworthy numbers based on a voter’s party affiliation.

Over half of Aontú voters (57%) were opposed to Ukraine’s membership of the EU, with Independent voters (48%) and Solidarity-PBP voters (48%) also largely opposed to Kyiv’s application.

Climate

Respondents were asked to rate the EU’s performance on the response to the climate emergency on the same 1-5 rating system, with the overall average rating coming in at 2.8.

That average score was relatively consistent across the age groups, with a score of 3 the most popular selection across all six age ranges.

Big tech

As the EU’s HQ for many of the world’s biggest tech firms, Ireland has a particular interest in how the EU plans to regulate the industry.

There have been, for example, efforts by the EU to restrict Meta from using personal data and moves by the EU to investigate disinformation on X, formerly Twitter.

Asked in the poll to rate the EU’s performance on reigning in big tech, only 22%of respondents gave a positive score.

The average score across all age groups was 2.6, with younger people aged 18-34 giving an above average score of 2.8.

Enthusiasm to vote

Overall there appears to be a motivation among those polled to vote in the European elections, with 83% saying they were very likely to do so, 12% saying they were somewhat likely and only 5% saying they were unlikely to.

Among those poll, 35-44 years olds were the most enthusiastic likely voters, with 90% saying they were very likely to vote.

The Journal/Ireland Thinks series of polls will run each month ahead of the European parliament elections in June. It will continue to explore voter intentions, measure Irish public sentiment towards the EU on a number of issues and highlight any potential opinion gaps between different demographics of Irish society on matters important to them. 

The poll of 1,255 people was carried out between the 2 and 7 February and has a  margin of error of 2.8%.

***

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

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