Press Release

Europeans anxious but support Ukraine against Russia – Poll

Europeans anxious but support Ukraine against Russia - Poll cover
February 16, 2023

A majority of EU citizens, including 64% of Belgians, view Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an attack on their own region and support Ukrainians’ response, seeing them as defending not just themselves but freedom and prosperity across Europe. Two in three consider the world dangerous and less comfortable than in the past, yet those anxieties have little impact on their attitudes to confronting Russia. A year into the war, Belgians’ views are broadly in line with their neighbours’, if somewhat less ready to blame Moscow for the conflict.

These are the findings of an EU-wide survey conducted in December by eupinions, the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s European opinion research tool, and published in cooperation with the King Baudouin Foundation. Across Europe, 68% of respondents agreed that Russia had attacked all of Europe by its aggression against Ukraine, a figure that was broadly consistent across seven nations where surveys were conducted separately, as well as across the Union as a whole. In Belgium 64% felt the rest of Europe was under attack, rising to nearly 80% in Spain and Poland.

“This unity is an important signal,” says Isabell Hoffmann, Europe expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung and head of eupinions. “Common values are a cornerstone of the support provided to Ukraine by the EU and its member states. The longer this war drags on, the more important it is for Ukrainians to know that the majority of EU citizens acknowledge their achievements.”

Sixty percent of Belgians – and 61% of Europeans – think Ukraine will win.

Three in four EU and Belgian voters, 75%, believe that it should be up to Ukrainians alone to decide when to and start negotiating. Italians were least supportive of Ukraine’s right to call the shots. There, 65% thought it was solely for Kiev to decide when to open talks, compared to 81% in France and 87% in Poland. Italians were also least in agreement that Russia is responsible for the conflict; 54% blamed Moscow but 28% thought it was the United States, NATO or Ukraine itself. Overall, 11% of EU citizens blamed Washington for the war and 5% each either NATO or Ukraine. In Belgium, 14% were unsure who was responsible and 24% said it was not Russia but the Ukraine (8%), NATO (8%) or the US (8%).

A key aim of the survey was to test Europeans’ readiness to put up with risk and hardship in support of Ukraine. To do so, it split out a group of respondents it classed as “anxious” – namely those who thought both that the world was a dangerous place and that things had been better in the past. This group turned out to represent fully 66% of all respondents, although Belgians were rather less anxious, at 61%. Only 6% of Europeans and 8% of Belgians approved neither statement. Yet in breaking out the answers from the “anxious” Europeans group, opinions on the war changed little.

“The level of anxiety is exceptionally high right now. Given the brutality of the war, the toll it’s taking, and the overall level of threat, this is not surprising. What’s really remarkable, however, is that the most anxious are just as supportive of Ukraine as are EU citizens as a whole,” says Hoffmann. “Our data do not suggest that this high level of anxiety correlates with weakened support for Ukraine in its struggle for independence and self-determination.”

One area in which opinion was evenly divided was on economic sanctions against Russia. While one European in five could not decide whether these were effective or not, exactly 40% thought they were and 40% took the opposite view. Belgians were slightly less sceptical, with 36% believing sanctions aren’t working against 41% who see them as effective.

Additional information
eupinions is the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s European opinion research project, developed jointly with Dalia Research. The programme regularly surveys citizens from all EU member states on issues of European importance. Detailed information on the survey’s methodology can be found in the publication.

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The Bertelsmann Stiftung is committed to enabling social participation for everyone – politically, economically and culturally. Our programs include Education and the Next Generation, Democracy and Social Cohesion, Digitalization and the Common Good, Europe’s Future, Health, and Sustainable Social Market Economies. In our work, we focus on people, since only they can change the world and make it better. We share knowledge, promote expertise and develop solutions. A nonprofit foundation, the Bertelsmann Stiftung was established in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn.