Monday, November 5, 2012

Crisis and public support for the euro

by Felix Roth, Lars Jonung and Felicitas Nowak-Lehmann


November 5, 2012

The Eurozone crisis has meant slow growth, rising unemployment, and social unrest. This column gauges the impact of all this on European citizens‘ opinions about the euro and EU institutions. Using Eurobarometer surveys, the authors find that, within the Eurozone, the crisis has only marginally lowered support for the euro but has led to a sharp fall in public trust in the ECB.

The euro is a unique currency in at least two ways. It is the first time that a group of democratic countries have abolished their national currencies and replaced them with a single currency that is managed by a common central bank, the ECB. The euro is also unique in that data on public attitudes towards the euro have been collected for more than 20 years (Eurobarometer 2012). No such data exist for any other currency. Uniquely, we are able to trace how public support for the euro has evolved over time, and how attitudes have changed during the present financial crisis.

We have constructed our measure of public support for the euro from responses to the bi-annual Eurobarometer surveys, which have been carried out since autumn 1990 (starting with Standard EB 34). Note that our study includes the results from spring 2012 (that is, Standard EB 77). To measure public support for the euro, the survey’s interviewers suggested a proposal - “[a] European Monetary Union with one single currency, the euro”2 - to which respondents could then choose “for”, “against” or “don’t know”. Here, we focus on the average percentage of net support measured as the number of "for" responses minus “against” responses.

In this research, we study public support for the single currency over a 22-year period from 1990 to 2012 for the 12 Eurozone Member States (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, the EA-12). The data are presented in Figure 1, which shows citizens’ net support for the single currency in EA-12 country samples for 1990-2012.

Figure 1 Average net support for the single currency in the EA-12 countries, 1990-2012


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