Six ‘political tribes’ of Europe identified

A report on the views of more than 10,000 Europeans co-written by Professor Matthew Goodwin has identified six distinct groups of voters across the continent.

The new analysis for the independent policy institute Chatham House entitled Tribes of Europe: Exploring the Diversity of Views across the EU  challenges the polarized ‘pro’ and anti-‘EU’ narrative around Europe’s future, and finds it doesn’t reflect the reality of attitudes across the continent.

The research found the smaller groups, ‘EU rejectors’ and ‘Federalists’, at either end of the spectrum arguably wielding the greatest political influence – but account for fewer than one in four voters.

Professor Goodwin, of the School of Politics and International Relations, said the research shows the key challenge for political leaders will be to engage with the largest tribe they identify, the ‘Hesitant Europeans’ who will be a key swing group for the future.

This group seems to instinctively support the EU, but have significant concerns about sovereignty and immigration, and many are simply disengaged from politics. He says ‘forcing most voters into a binary ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ box risks frustrating and alienating them’ – the majority don’t sit entirely comfortably in either camp.

The six political tribes are identified as:

  • Hesitant Europeans (36 per cent of the sample) tend to be proud to be European, but also hold real and pressing concerns that will need to be addressed if they are to support the EU project over the long term. They sit in the middle on many issues, and need persuading on the merits of the EU. They tend to be apathetic about politics, are concerned about immigration and tend to prioritize national sovereignty over deeper EU integration.
  • Contented Europeans (23 per cent) are optimistic and pro-European. Often young and broadly socially liberal, they feel that they benefit from the EU but tend to favour the status quo over further integration.
  • EU Rejecters (14 per cent) are angry about politics and the EU. They are least likely to feel any benefits of membership, and overwhelmingly view the EU as undemocratic. Most feel negative about immigration and are socially conservative.
  • Frustrated Pro-Europeans (9 per cent) want a more integrated EU driven by progressive values. They support the idea of richer states helping poorer ones, but are more mixed about immigration than are other pro-Europeans.
  • Austerity Rebels (9 per cent) want a looser, more democratic EU driven by solidarity, with powers returned to member states. They tend to think that richer states should support poorer ones, and that each state should accept its fair share of refugees.
  • Federalists (8 per cent) make up the smallest tribe. They support a deeply integrated ‘United States of Europe’, feel that the EU has benefited them, and are mostly positive about immigration. They tend to be wealthier, older and disproportionately male, with strong and diverse social networks.

Tribes of Europe: Exploring the Diversity of Views across the EU notes that these tribes are not necessarily static. They reflect Europe’s shifting political sensibilities and show how important fault lines in European politics run across countries, not just between them.

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