On this page, you can explore a selection of interactive maps and charts presenting rising Euroscepticism.

1. More than one in four people voted for a Eurosceptic party in the last national election

In recent years, popular discontent has been brewing in many parts of the world, including most countries in Europe. This rising wave of dissatisfaction with a ‘system’ that many feel no longer benefits them is manifested in different ways: from declining levels of participation in elections to low levels of citizen engagement in civil society. The dissatisfaction can also be seen in: (i) an increasing tendency to support more extreme, often populist options at the ballot box; and (ii) increasing signs of distress by those disaffected from the system. In the European Union (EU), this disaffection is reflected in the rise of Euroscepticism. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the share of votes in national legislative elections for ‘hard’ Eurosceptic parties has risen from less than 5% to 14% of the electorate. If we include ‘soft’ Eurosceptic parties, their combined vote share has almost quadrupled from around 7% to 27% in 2022.
In a recent DG REGIO working paper, we combine Eurosceptic votes into two categories based on the Chapel Hill Expert Survey. The first category, ‘hard’ Euroscepticism, covers parties that were assessed to be opposed or strongly opposed to EU integration (a score of less than 2.5 on EU position). The second category, ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ Euroscepticism, is a wider category and includes parties that are somewhat opposed as well as those that are opposed or strongly opposed (i.e. all parties with a score of less than 3.5 on EU position).
Tip - Hover your mouse pointer over the figure to see the exact values for each year 
Source: DG REGIO calculations based on the Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES) and DG REGIO data collection.
Note: Hard Euroscepticism is defined as a score of 2.5 or lower on the EU-position index. Soft and hard Euroscepticism is defined as a score of 3.5 or lower on the EU-position index.

The crisis boosted Euroscepticism

Support for hard Eurosceptic parties remained below 5% throughout most of the 2000s. Soft and hard Eurosceptic parties received, on average, around 10% of the vote in this period. The financial crisis and the reaction to government austerity measures coincided with a rapid increase in the vote for Eurosceptic parties since the early 2010s. Support for hard Eurosceptic parties in national parliamentary elections has mostly remained slightly below 15% of the total vote since 2012. But the share of the combined soft and hard Eurosceptic vote has continued to rise since the financial crisis, reaching 27% in 2022. The Brexit vote and its consequences for the UK and Europe as a whole may have reduced the appeal of hard Euroscepticism, but not that of soft Euroscepticism.

2. One in two voted Eurosceptic in four Member States

In four countries — Hungary, Italy, Poland, and France — Euroscepticism already represents half of the electorate. Beyond these four countries, support for Eurosceptic options drops considerably, but remains still above 25% in the Netherlands and Sweden and above 20% in Belgium. Only in Lithuania and Malta had zero votes for Eurosceptic parties in the last round of national parliamentary elections.
Source: DG REGIO calculations based on the Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES) and DG REGIO data collection.
Tip - Hover your mouse pointer over the figure to see the values per  country and class.

Territorial divisions in Euroscepticism

The interactive map shows the distribution of the vote for hard Eurosceptic parties (Tip: move the divider to the right) and for soft plus hard Eurosceptic parties (move the divider to the left).  In some cases, the variation in support for Eurosceptic parties is minimal within countries. This is especially the case in countries where Euroscepticism is limited.
In countries with significant support for Eurosceptic parties, regional variations in the levels of support for Euroscepticism is far more common. In France, for example, the support for hard Eurosceptic parties is concentrated in the north-east of the country and along the Mediterranean coast. It is far weaker in the two largest urban areas (Paris and Lyon) as well as in Brittany and in the more rural areas of southern France. Soft and hard Euroscepticism combined is more evenly spread, but again it is weaker in some southern rural departments.
The regional contrast in Germany follows the old border between east and west Germany. Support for soft and hard Euroscepticism is higher in the east of the country, with Berlin and some of its neighbouring regions and some of the other large cities being the main exceptions. In Belgium, the Eurosceptic divide mostly follows the regional and linguistic border between Flanders and Wallonia, with Euroscepticism being far stronger among Dutch-speaking Belgians. In Poland, the large metropolitan areas tend to vote less for Eurosceptic parties than their surrounding areas. Soft and hard Euroscepticism also reflect the difference between the eastern and western parts of Poland. Euroscepticism is more prevalent in the eastern part of the country, with the exception of the large cities, including Warsaw, Łódź, and Kraków.

3 . Regions stuck in a development trap become more and more Eurosceptic over time

The analysis in this linked paper shows that Eurosceptic voting is reduced by: (i) higher employment rates; (ii) higher shares of the population with tertiary education; (iii) higher quality of government; (iv) higher shares of residents born in another EU Member State; and (v) higher population densities. In contrast, greater GDP per head, a greater share of older people, and a greater share of residents born outside the EU all tend to increase the votes for Eurosceptic parties.
This paper adds a new dimension to understand Eurosceptic voting: the regional development trap. Regions in a development trap experience lower growth in income, productivity, and employment compared to: (i) their own historical performance; (ii) the country in which they are in; and/or (iii) the EU. The analysis shows that the more intense and the deeper the development trap, the greater the vote share of Eurosceptic parties. This is the case for both soft and hard Euroscepticism and for the elections since 2013 and since 2018. The paper also demonstrates the cumulative impact of being in a development trap. The longer a region is trapped, the greater the impact on Eurosceptic voting. This highlights the need for a strong, place-based policy that can help regions to escape from their development traps. Previous research has shown that cohesion policy investments tend to reduce Eurosceptic voting.

4. More information

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Authors: Lewis DIJKSTRA
Text:       September 2023