Among Europeans, Germans are the most positive about the direction their country is taking.
According to research by Bertelsmann Stiftung, over half (59%) of Germans polled are satisfied, compared with the EU average of 36%.
By contrast, 87% of Italians say they are dissatisfied. France and Poland match the EU average, while the British and Spanish are more gloomy, with only 31% and 27% respectively saying they were satisfied with their country’s prospects.
Satisfaction with democracy
The German public’s higher satisfaction levels can be partly explained by the fact that they’re mostly happy with their country’s democracy (63%), compared to the EU average of 50%. And that they feel better off economically than before.
Unlike in other EU member states, far-right parties have failed to gain representation in the German parliament since 1945.
However, this may change with the upcoming German election and the possibility that the Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party could enter the German parliament.
Italians are least satisfied with their democracy, with only 17% saying so. The UK is more optimistic, at 56%, than France, at 50%. Less than half of respondents in Poland and Spain are satisfied with their national democracy though, at 48% and 46% respectively.
When it comes to Europeans’ economic situation, over three-quarters of Germans (77%) say that their personal finances have either stayed the same or improved. The Polish public takes a similar view, at 76%.
But only two-thirds (67%) of Brits and less than half (46%) of Italians feel the same.
Italy, the EU’s fourth largest economy, has suffered sluggish growth in the last few years, although there are signs that it’s reviving.
Germans generally have the impression that they’re well off, especially when compared to their European neighbours and other Western allies, according to the report.
Unhappiness with the EU’s direction
Despite varying levels of satisfaction over the state of democracy and the economy, all the nations surveyed agreed on one thing – they are not happy with the direction of the EU.
Only 28% of Germans think it's heading in the right direction, and Italians even less so, at just 17%. The average across the EU was only a third (34%). Even the most optimistic country, France, could only muster 38%.
That said, if presented with a UK-style referendum, no other country would choose to leave, according to the report. On average, 70% would vote remain. But in Italy it would be a closer call, with only 56% saying they would vote to stay in the EU if they were given the option.
The EU’s role on the global stage
Despite not liking where the EU is heading, all the countries agree that it should play a more active role in global affairs. In every country except France (74%), 80% or more thought that the EU should be more prominent on the global stage.
Understanding German public opinion is important both from an international and domestic perspective, concludes the report.
“The next German government will play an important role in shaping the future of the EU. German leadership in the EU and beyond is even more important in a time of political uncertainty driven by Brexit, threats to global security, and increasingly isolationist American president.”
The survey, conducted in July 2017, collected the opinions of 10,755 Europeans in all EU member states.