Faith in European politics

We publish our free quarterly research bulletin VISTA today. You can download a copy from the VISTA pages on this blog but here’s a taster from the current Issue for those of you who may not otherwise see it.


If you ask an average European* whether politics is important in their lives more than half of them will say that it is not.  However a closer look at the European Values Study data suggests a more complex picture.  We have focussed in on three aspects, the importance of politics to today’s Europeans, active involvement in political parties and their confidence in political institutions.


Only 9% of Europeans say that politics is very important in their lives with 60% saying that politics is not, or not at all important to them.  The most politically disengaged are the Portuguese and the Spanish with only 4.7% and 5.2% saying that politics is important, whereas 14% of Greeks say so. Further questions asking how interested they are in politics and how often they discuss political matters with their friends suggest similar levels of disinterest.

However, when asked how often they followed politics on TV, radio or in the papers a surprising contrast emerged.  In every one of the countries the level of political engagement through the media was significantly higher with almost 50% following political matters on a daily basis.


Given that so few say that politics is important to them, it is perhaps no surprise that the percentage of those who say they belong to a political party  is also very low. Overall just under 4% of Europeans belong to a political party or group but in some countries the percentage is much lower than that, only 2% in GB and Spain and 1% in Poland.  Only in the Netherlands is there a notably higher level of political engagement by belonging with nearly 12% saying that they belong to a political party.


The third measure of political engagement we considered relates to the confidence in political institutions, namely the parliament,   government, and political parties in the countries in question, and the EU.  Overall the political institution that enjoys the greatest confidence of Europeans is the EU with 7.5% of Europeans saying they are very confident about it.   This is followed by their own Parliament (3,9%), their government (2.8%) and finally the political parties themselves (1.4%).  As Figure 3 clearly shows however, there are significant national variations with Germany, GB and the Netherlands being much more euroskeptic, and Spain, Portugal, Poland and Italy ranking the EU as much more trustworthy than their national parliaments.  Tellingly in no country does confidence in political parties rise above 3%.


It is clear that Europeans are largely disengaged from politics when it comes to active participation in political parties or even political debate over coffee with their friends.  Nevertheless, they are avid consumers of political matters in the media which may evidence a keen self-interest if nothing else.

The crisis of confidence that political institutions are suffering is perhaps most clearly illustrated by comparison with levels of confidence in the church, another widely questioned institution.  In every country but Belgium the church enjoys much more confidence than political institutions.  Europeans appear to have more faith in faith than in politics.

Explore posts in the same categories: EU, europe, politicians, politics

One Comment on “Faith in European politics”

  1. […] 8. Most Europeans themselves are seemingly not that interested in politics: see, for example, Faith in European politics. […]

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