Press Release

Eupinions poll: before elections, Belgians wearying but still back Ukraine two years into war

Eupinions poll: before elections, Belgians wearying but still back Ukraine two years into war cover
February 15, 2024

Political leaders gearing up for Belgium’s parliamentary election in June face an electorate that is showing some signs of fatigue with efforts to help Ukraine after two years of war with Russia. But a new poll by eupinions, supported by the King Baudouin Foundation, also reveals that divisions on the issue cut across party lines and political affiliations among both French- and Dutch-speaking voters, creating challenges – and opportunities – for efforts to build consensus policy responses, both within Belgium and the broader European Union.

The findings are part of the latest quarterly EU-wide survey by eupinions, the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s European opinion research tool supported by KBF. Conducted during December among some 13,000 EU citizens across the bloc, including 1,112 in Belgium, this update sampled respondents’ political preferences along a left-right spectrum and correlated these to views on Ukraine.

On key issues, such as EU membership for Kiev or arming Ukraine, Belgian support is softening. Now 58% of Belgian voters are in favour of Ukraine joining the European Union in the coming years, slightly below the EU average of 60% and down from 62% of Belgians in September and the lowest level recorded in the country since 65% said they were in favour of such a move just after Russia invaded on 24 February 2022.

Belgians are slightly more favourable than the average EU citizen to supplying weapons to Ukraine, with 58% backing the idea compared to 55% across the EU. Last June, however, fully 65% of Belgian voters told eupinions that they supported EU arms shipments for Kiev.

With Belgians voting on June 9 for a new federal legislature – as well as taking part in the EU-wide vote for the European Parliament that day – data mapping preferences on Ukraine policy to party affiliation offered some broad trends, but highlighted that opinion on how to deal with Russia and the war is clearly divided even among those voting for the same party.

Broadly speaking, the 60% of Belgians who vote for Dutch-speaking lists are slightly more supportive of Kiev than French-speakers. For example, asked if they are willing to cut imports from Russia even if it means dearer fuel bills, 65% said Yes in Flanders compared to 61% in Wallonia.

While across Europe as a whole voters from the left and centre-left tend to be more supportive of Ukraine than those on the right, Belgium’s French-speakers on the left, and particularly those who identify with the PTB, seem more sceptical than European peers. Fully 70% of PTB voters oppose arming Ukraine, as do 57% of those who support its Flemish sister list, the PvdA. Underlining the complexity of the picture, however, supporters of only two Belgian parties are majority opposed to Ukrainian EU membership – the PTB on the French-speaking left, and the Vlaams Belang on the Dutch-speaking right. Nonetheless, a hefty 47% of Vlaams Belang supporters and 43% of PTB voters favour Ukraine joining the EU.

Among EU citizens as a whole, the 55% who now back EU arms shipments to Ukraine is down from 60% in September and 62% the previous year. While Poles are the most bullish among countries surveyed in detail, Italians’ opposition to sending weapons surged to 60% from 53% in September, with only those from the centre-left more in favour.

“While there are discernible trends in public opinion regarding the EU’s response to the Ukrainian crisis, notable exceptions and variations across member states underscore the complexity of these sentiments,” say Catherine de Vries and Isabell Hoffmann of eupinions. “As geopolitical dynamics continue to evolve, understanding and addressing these nuances will be crucial for shaping effective policies and responses within the European Union.”