of research and
Research has 8 things to say
PERCEIVE research produced several deliverables and outputs. Out of those, we selected 8 main findings that can help citizen, practitioners and policy-makers to understand more on the relationship between Cohesion Policy, identity, awareness and perception of Europe.
Europe has a problem
The communication of Cohesion Policy has not been effective
in promoting support to the EU.
The truth is, communication itself has never been a goal of the Policy – it should be. Europe must learn to better communicate its policies, avoiding local governments to take credit for concrete benefits coming from EU funds. Channels are crucial: awareness of European projects still passes through traditional tools (30% TV, 23% newspapers), while struggling on social media (5,8%). The role of the first ones should be rethought: they can increase visibility of Cohesion Policy but do not fuel support for the EU project. More sophisticated tools (e.g. video competitions, ”Did you know?” campaigns, photo exhibitions, etc.) could be effective for specific groups but not for others. Specific tools and messages should be used for the “losers” of European integration, i.e. olders, unskilled, rural citizens.
Allocating structural funds
is not sufficient to obtain consent.
Benefiting from European funds does not necessarily imply
supporting the European project and identifying with Europe.
Some regions largely benefit from European funds and are aware of receiving funds from the EU but do not translate this awareness into support for the European project. For example, Calabria (Italy) is a region that benefits greatly from European funds and more than 60% of respondents are aware of the existence of structural funds. Although, only 10% perceive the benefits of EU funds and the 34% (the highest proportion recorded in PERCEIVE survey) considers being part of the EU a bad thing. This, according to PERCEIVE researchers, can happen for two reasons: Structural Funds do not generate a benefit because they are not spent well; communication needs to be improved with regard to the virtuous results of cohesion policy.
Half of European citizens
are not aware of EU policies.
PERCEIVE research showed that citizens’ awareness of what the EU is investing in their regions is generally low, with large differences across Europe.
Overall, every two European citizens, less than one knows about EU Cohesion Policy (45%). Structural Funds are known on average by 50% of EU citizens. In the case of EU Regional Policy, the average percentage rises to 53%: according to PERCEIVE researchers, this is also because – simply – words count: “cohesion policy” is much more cryptic than “regional policy”.
Recognition of EU policies
is higher among “new” countries.
Europe faces a “two-speed” scenario: citizens from countries that joined most recently the Union are more aware of what the EU is investing in their region.
Awareness of EU Cohesion Policy reaches peaks of 63% in Poland or 60% in Estonia, followed by drops to 21% in the UK and 18% in the Netherlands. Structural Funds’ awareness fluctuates between 75% in Poland or 69% in Latvia, to 24% in Netherlands or 26% in the UK. In the case of EU Regional Policy, the research showed peaks of 70%, as Slovakia, and heavy downs in France, Netherlands and the UK, which stand between 31 and 24%. Among regions, awareness drops from peaks of 84% in Warmińsko-mazurskie (Poland) to 18% in Essex (UK) — any possible connection with Brexit?
Not all Eurosceptic governments
govern Eurosceptic people.
Countries that largely benefit from European funds
do not ignore the benefits of European policies.
For example, in Poland – governed by Eurosceptics – a proportion of respondents ranging from 60% to 80% perceive that European funding has produced obvious benefits in their region. The same proportion in Emilia Romagna (Italy), for example, is around 15%. Besides, more than 75% of the citizens interviewed in the Polish regions consider belonging to the European Union a positive thing and identify with Europe.
Perception of the EU is lower among older,
less-educated and rural citizens.
Education and income positively influence citizens’ identification
and appreciation of the EU, so do urban environments.
The average profile of those who perceive the benefits of Europe? Mostly younger (28% between 18 and 29 years old, 31% between 30 and 49), with higher education (45% of graduates, compared to 23% of those who did not attend high school) and who live in a large city (35% in cities over a million inhabitants, 26% in those under 10,000).
Investment can still be fundamental
in amplifying awareness.
Awareness continues to play an important role in building support for European integration and investment from the EU can impact it positively.
Both the amount of structural funds absorbed by the region and the specific budget allocated to communication have an impact on citizens’ awareness of the Cohesion Policy. However, the effect of communication investment has a potentially decreasing effectiveness over time (“decay effect”). Citizens that are “aware” of the policy tend to perceive higher personal benefits from the EU and can, as a result, increase their support to Brussels.
National institutional quality and corruption
impact citizens’ trust in the EU.
Richest regions where quality of institution is high
are more concerned about the efficacy and corruption of the EU.
Wealthier regions have a lower pattern of identification with the European project and are more disapproving towards Brussels. On the other side, higher levels of recognition and trust in the EU institutions emerge in poorest regions, where people perceive high internal levels of corruption and lower quality of government.