Where Does the EU’s 93% Support Come From?

In nearly every recent statement of the EU Delegation in Tirana we see the same number: “93% of Albanian citizens” supports EU integration. This number is taken from the most recent Eurobarometer, a public opinion poll held by the European Commission. The Eurobarometer gathers its data by interviewing 1,000 people per country face to face.

To be precise, of those 1,000 Albanians questioned by the Eurobarometer, 93% of the Albanians agree that “generally speaking, Albania’s membership of the EU would be a good thing.” A quick statistical calculation shows that this actually means that concerning the Albanian population of 2.93 million, you can say with a confidence level of 99% that 93%±2.08% agrees with that statement. The clue is here, of course, “generally speaking.”

Yet there is big difference between measuring and using. And the way in which the EU uses these polling data is not at all faithful to this very broad “generally speaking.” For example, in a recent statement denouncing the opposition’s decision to leave Parliament in protest against the state capture by crime and corruption, the EU Delegation in Tirana wrote the following:

“As already stated, we consider that the decision to relinquish parliamentary mandates seriously hinders the functioning of democracy in Albania, and it affects the EU integration of the country – a perspective fully shared by 93% of Albanian citizens.”

It is entirely untrue that 930 of 1,000 Albanians interviewed in 2018 for the Eurobarometer fully agree with the statement “the decision to relinquish parliamentary mandates seriously hinders the functioning of democracy in Albania and affects the EU integration.” They were never asked such a question. In fact, if we assume that the opposition represents those who voted for them, nearly half of the voting population supports their decision, despite its hampering of EU accession process. The simple truth is: preferences are not absolute – as the EU Delegation wants them to be – but relative.

The eurocrats releasing one press statement after the other condemning this or supporting that show not only a fundamental misunderstanding of what the statistics of the Eurobarometer actually represent: a general attitude toward the EU that cannot be used to infer specific sentiments about current political affairs.

Yet that is precisely what the EU Delegation in Tirana – disingenuously – is trying to do.

– Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei