Thursday, 5 November 2015

Citizens of richer EU countries are less sanguine about free movement

In a previous post, I showed that EU citizens are much more sanguine about richer non-EU countries joining the EU (e.g., Switzerland) than they are about poorer non-EU countries joining (e.g., Macedonia). One possible explanation is that EU workers believe, correctly or incorrectly, that immigrants from poorer non-EU countries would be more likely to compete with them in the labour market. If this explanation were true, one would expect citizens of richer EU countries to be less sanguine about free movement generally.    

In many waves of the Eurobarometer survey, respondents have been asked the following question:
Which of the following do you think is the most positive result of the EU: peace among the member states; the free movement of people, goods and services; the Euro; student exchange programmes; the common agricultural policy; the economic power of the EU; the political and diplomatic influence of the EU; the level of social welfare; other; none?
The charts below plot, for spring 2014 and spring 2015 respectively, log of GDP per capita against the percentage of respondents who believe free movement is the most positive result of the EU. (GDP data, taken from the World Bank, are for 2013.)

In both cases, the correlation is moderate and negative: citizens of richer EU countries are less sanguine about free movement than their counterparts from poorer EU countries. The correlation for the left-hand chart is r = –.55 (p = 0.003), while the correlation for the right-hand chart is r = –.66 (p < 0.001). Luxembourg was excluded because it is an outlier on GDP per capita, meaning that its inclusion obscured the pattern on the charts. Nonetheless, the correlations with Luxembourg included are approximately identical: r = –.55 (p = 0.002) for the left-hand chart, and r = –.64 (p < 0.001) for the right-hand chart.

It is of course possible, however, that these results derive simple from the fact that citizens of richer EU countries consider some other result of the EU more positive than free movement (e.g., peace among the member states), and so by definition, fewer of them were available to say that free movement was the most positive. 

1 comment:

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