In the face of the British referendum next week I just wanted to mention this interesting report I noticed recently. It statistically confirms an impression I had for a long time, namely that EU skepticism is much more prevalent among older people:
The drop-off in overall EU support in key countries in the past year has been driven by a fall in favorability among older people in particular. In France, EU backing among those ages 50 and older fell 19 points. In Spain it declined 16 points and in Germany 11 points. In each case this was larger than the decline in support among those ages 18 to 34.The drop-off in overall EU support in key countries in the past year has been driven by a fall in favorability among older people in particular. In France, EU backing among those ages 50 and older fell 19 points. In Spain it declined 16 points and in Germany 11 points. In each case this was larger than the decline in support among those ages 18 to 34. Source: Pew Research Center
And here are the numbers:
Just recently I was in the UK and in the mornings I was usually watching BBC breakfast television. Brexit was of course the dominating topic. One morning they showed a discussion within a typical British family on the pros and cons of leaving the EU. Notable to me was that the two children of the family, a daughter and a son, were arguing in favor of staying whereas the father and the grandmother wanted to leave. Other Brits I talked to at the conference I attended told me that the decision next Thursday will crucially depend on whether the “stay” side will manage to get young voters to the ballot box.
The discussion in the UK is very much dominated by economic arguments. The British were probably never emotionally attached to the Union but they worry about how a Brexit could affect their trade relations to the rest of Europe, what would happen to their economy, and the consequences for London as a financial centre. By contrast, in Germany the EU is always associated with a project that peacefully unites the peoples of the continent. But are these the topics young people are still most concerned with? Are they the most pressing issues in their everyday life?
I think a new narrative is necessary to revitalize this project—for the first time in history establishing political institutions across national borders without using force. Institutions that allow for a deep cooperation in order to deal with the problems of our times. It seems that young people intuitively sense the need for such a cooperation and the gains they have from it personally: free travel, the possibility to study or work abroad, and to make international friendships, the power to effectively cope with economic crises and environmental problems, and to overcome the often encrusted political systems in their home countries. I sincerely hope that the old and frustrated won’t take this away from us.