Euengage second wave survey 2017

Euengage Survey, approaching the second wave

An interview with the Deputy Project Coordinator, Pierangelo Isernia

The EUENGAGE project is building eight different datasets focusing on citizens (Euengage Mass Survey, Data on the deliberation online- e-Voice), elites (Euengage Elite Survey), parties (CHES, EP Election 2014 Party Manifestos), political leadership (EUSpeech), social media (EP Election 2014-Tweets) and online media (MRC Data). The first wave of the Euengage Mass and Elite survey was run in the summer of 2016 in ten European countries: Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The survey explores public attitudes through a Computer-assisted web interviewing (CAWI) system, involving more than 25 thousands citizens, a panel of economic elites of the member states, and a sample of national MPs. The questionnaire focused on three main issues (Security, the Economy, Immigration, and the EU), Brexit, personal values and beliefs and socio-demographic information. In particular, the questionnaire focused on six key subjects: concern/salience, policy solutions, solidarity within the EU. The survey also conducted some population-based experiments on the three main issues explored. After a year, Euengage launches the second wave of the survey. We asked the deputy coordinator of the Project, Prof. Pierangelo Isernia to give some anticipation.


Professor Isernia, during the last year, is the political scenario changed within the countries under analysis and Europe as a whole?

Over the last few years, we have gotten used to a rapid pace of change in Europe. To mention a few things happening between the first and the second wave: Brexit came in (indeed, the fieldwork of the first wave straddled the British referendum and we were able to make good of this opportunity in order to explore the short term effects of Brexit), Trump got into power in the US, Macron won the Presidential elections in France and, of course, a new Italian government stepped in after the rejection of the constitutional referendum. Clearly, not all of these changes can be reflected in a project as large and complex as Euengage, with many of its scientific goals set out years in advance, but we tried to do our best to take some of these critical events into account in designing our second wave questionnaire.


What is new in the second wave of the survey?

Being a panel survey, we, of course, struggled to strike a balance between the need for continuity – to maximize the panel nature of the design – and the desire to make sense of some of the too many changes occurring around us. I hope we did a good job. Three are the main things we introduced that were not planned at the beginning of the project. First, we explored the perceived impact the new Trump administration is having on the process of European integration and on the role of Europe in the world. Second, we devoted some attention to the role of information and news, including fake news, on attitudes towards European integration. Last, we included an interesting behavioral experiment on solidarity that nicely matches the several experiments we have run in both the first and the second wave on solidarity issues among European countries.


What is consistent or linked to the first wave?

The bulk of the comparison is about the three policy areas at the core of the project – the financial and economic crisis, immigration and the security concerns related to what is happening in the South and Eastern part of the Mediterranean and on the borders with Russia. Moreover, we used some of the results of the first wave as data input to engage the respondent in thinking over some of the answers she gave in the first wave, a pretty new approach in a standard survey. Last, as planned in the project, we also exploited the panel design to increase the number of pre-dispositional questions, in order to better gauge what is changing in attitudes toward Europe among citizens and business people in the 10 countries part of the project.


The Euengage mass and elite surveys allow comparisons between economic elites and general public, how do they differ?

The two questionnaires for business people and the general public are identical, with the exception of a few socio-demographics and information about the size and sector of the firm. We were initially worried business people – a sample that covers business firms of quite different size and sectors of activity – would have been reluctant to answer questions not obviously related to their business core. However, the first wave showed our worries unfounded. In fact, we have now data to assess to what extent business elites differ from the general public. Preliminary analyses show that, in political terms, they are much closer to the general public than to the political elites.


As to political elites survey, beside a few questions too technical to be asked to the general public, the main difference with the general public is that – as in the first wave – the political elite survey does not include any experimental question. We deemed the sample too small for this kind of questions and we stuck to our decision in the second wave as well. However, we tried hard to explicitly link the two questionnaires, elite and public, making some of the information gathered in the first wave from public opinion available to elite and vice versa. As an example, we imputed the average position of the elite as information for the general public in answering what their position was on different policy issues and we did the same for the political elites, using the public opinion data.


Data from the first wave of the survey are currently analyzed, while scientific contributes already circulate in difference international conferences around the world and are going to be published in academic journals. Why the data coming from the survey are important for understanding the past and present of the EU? And how would they be used?    

I see two main contributions coming out of this project. First, with Euengage, we can say that we were “present at creation.” Many important things are happening in Europe and elsewhere right now, and the Euengage survey is probably among the few on the spot to record them, with a carefully implemented panel design and a vast battery of questions both attitudinal and psychological. This project will offer a unique opportunity for the scientific community to gauge what is happening in the European polity and it will help us to better understand in what direction it might go. In fact, we are actively working in the closing part of the project to make this scenario-building activity possible. Second, like in the Indian parable of the blind men confronting the elephant, we are now struggling to make sense of what is going on in Europe putting together a disparate set of evidences. Combining the many different data sources created during the project is a really exciting challenge for the entire team and one that promises to answer what kind of beast the European institutions are becoming.

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