A new Eurobarometer public opinion poll shows widespread support among European citizens for the Commission’s main CAP reform proposals. The poll, conducted by TNS Opinion and Social, interviewed 26,713 adults, enough for a representative sample in each member state.
The first question, concerning setting a cap on the amount of aid to the largest farms found that 47% of respondents favour a limit while 28% opposed a limit. 15 per cent didn’t know. Support for capping was strongest in Cyprus (+54%), Denmark (+36%), Finland (+33%) and Sweden (29%). Malta was the only country where more people thought a limit was a bad thing (-20%). In the agriculture council the strongest opponents of capping have traditionally been the UK, Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia. However, in each of these countries, a clear plurality of citizens favoured capping subsidies to larger farms.
A second question asked about strengthening the link between direct payments and the protection of the environment. The Commission was attempting to get at the question of whether environmental aspects of the CAP should be applied across the entire EU territory or concentrated in areas of particular ecological importance. The Commission’s proposals for a ‘greening’ component of Pillar 1 to be accessible to all farms show that it favours an across-the-board approach. By a margin of 11 per cent, citizens supported the Commission’s proposal.
Environmentalists, who have long campaigned for subsidies to be linked to ecological farming, have cause to be concerned that a spontaneous answer (i.e. an answer that was not offered as an option by the interviewer) that there should be no environmental conditionality at all, was volunteered by 10 per cent of respondents across the EU and by more than 15 per cent of respondents in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and the UK.
A third question asks about locally-produced food and local food markets. There was strong support for local food and local food labelling but respondents were even split on the question of how easy or difficult it is to identify whether a food product comes from a local farm or not.
A fourth question on transparency in CAP beneficiaries found that across the EU some 62 per cent of respondents favoured publication of the names of beneficiaries of CAP payments and the amounts they receive, while 22 per cent opposed the idea. Support for transparency was strongest Slovakia (+78%), Czech Republic (+60%), Greece (+56%) and the UK (+54%). In all countries more people favoured transparency than opposed it though the minority in favour of non-disclosure was largest in the Netherlands, Denmark, Latvia and Austria.
Eurobarometer polls must always be taken with a grain or two of salt. The Commission pays for them and has a strong input into the design of the survey. Eurobarometer rarely puts questions that might give awkward answers for the EU and rarely asks respondents to confront the trade-offs inherent in policy choices. Worse, the surveys are prone to ask loaded questions that appear almost guaranteed to produce the answers the Commission wants. Nevertheless there are very few other surveys on EU affairs nor of the scale of Eurobarometer in terms of sample size. Looking into differences between respondents in different member states can be very informative, as can looking at the answers broken down by socio-demographic divisions.
The full report is available for download (PDF).