Study exposes complexity of Czech voter attitudes to EU

Photo illustrative: European Parliament on / CC BY-NC-ND

A recent study conducted by the polling agency MEDIAN for the think-tank Moje Evropa revealed a more complex division of Czech voters than the often posited pro-EU vs anti-EU divide. According to some experts, who looked at the results, Czechs are not as Eurosceptic as many perceive them to be, but they often trust too much in myths.

Photo: European Parliament via,  CC BY-NC-ND
When it comes to European elections, the Czech voter population is much more fractured that the traditional pro-European and Eurosceptic perceptions suggest, sociologist Daniel Prokop from the polling agency MEDIAN told Czech Radio.

“When you look at all of the questions such as whether these people are for a Czexit, whether they think that EU membership has been beneficial, or whether they are critical towards the EU, you actually see there are around seven groups in society.”

The division into seven groups is based on a recent study conducted by MEDIAN for the think-tank Moje Evropa.

The largest two groups according to the study are so-called “Profiteers” and “Sceptical Reformists”. Both make up around 18 percent of the population.

Profiteers tend to be young and populist voters.

Mr. Prokop says they can also be defined by their pragmatism and materialism.

“They use the benefits of membership, such as traveling and working abroad. They are aware of the advantages that membership offers, but cannot be defined as pro-European in their values”.

Interestingly, although over 80 percent of this group sees EU membership as beneficial more than a half of Profiteers want to see a Czechxit referendum, exceeding the population average by one percent.

Among Sceptical Reformists on the other hand, less than a quarter supports a referendum on membership and virtually none are actually in favour of Czexit.

The sociologist team characterises this voter group as educated sceptics, who tend to be very interested in how the EU works as an institution and are pro-European, but fear the influence of EU subsidies on Czech politics and corruption within the state.

Trailing these two largest groups by just one percent is another important community, which Mr. Prokop calls “Defenders”.

“[The Defender] tends to trust the EU less than national institutions. He is very afraid of migration and is generally anti-European. Defenders also do not tend to be poor.”

Very few of them see any profit in the past 20 years of EU membership and four fifths of Defenders want to see Czexit happen.

In contrast, the most pro-EU group are the so-called “Urban Liberals”, who can are defined as well-educated individuals not impacted by poverty, who favour closer integration.

Meanwhile, 16 percent of the population makes up what the authors of the study call the “Excluded” group. These are voters who are often poor and threatened by property seizure. They tend to have a passive attitude towards the EU and politics in general.

The study divides the remaining 19 percent of voters into “Anti-Systemic Pessimists”, who favour Czexit, trusting neither EU nor state institutions and “Temporary Pragmatists”, who tend to be older voters seeing the advantages of EU membership for the younger population, but fearful of how it will develop in the future.

Only two out of the seven groups have a majority support for Czexit. Within the other five groups, who make 75 percent of the population, Czexit garnered only minority support.

The founder of the Moje Evropa think-tank, Tomáš Prouza believes the study shows that Czechs are actually less Eurosceptic than commonly assumed, but tend to fall for myths about the EU, which are spread by some politicians.

Jaroslav Miller is the Rector at Palacký University in Olomouc. The institution has recently started a project called “Euforka”, which is dedicated to combating manipulation by furthering relevant information from EU and state sources.

“Often after we talk to citizens they come to us afterwards and say that this was the first time they have seen the problem from the other side of the coin. That is what we are about, providing them with this objective information.”

The EU tends to be a popular topic on Czech news websites associated with disinformation or manipulative content according to a March study conducted by members of the Prague Security Studies Institute.

However, Mr. Miller says that myths are not just the results of manipulative information.

“Voters often do not know what power the European Parliament has, or the European Commission and Council are. It is the consequence of the inability of the state and the EU itself to communicate in a more lively way.”

Recently the head of the European Commission Representation in the Czech Republic Dana Kovaříková said that her team tries to communicate relevant information to Czechs in various ways, including the use of humor.