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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Pandemic has left Europeans thirsty for change, poll finds

The coronavirus crisis has made many European citizens more aware of the plight of others and made them want to change society, according to a new poll.

POLITICO was given access to polling by the NGO More in Common, which was carried out across six European countries — France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the U.K. — between June 19 and July 8. A report on the data will be published next month.

According to the poll, a majority of respondents across all six countries said the COVID-19 pandemic has made them "more aware of the living conditions of other people" in their country, ranging from 56 percent in Poland and France to 73 percent in Italy. Beyond national borders, the crisis has triggered similar reactions, with about three-quarters of all respondents agreeing that "no matter where we are from, as humans we are fundamentally the same."

There was also widespread agreement in all six countries that life cannot go on as it was before the coronavirus struck.

"Many people want to use the COVID crisis as an excuse to change the system," said Mathieu Lefèvre, CEO of More in Common.

The desire for a fresh start was particularly manifest with regard to questions about the environment. A Green New Deal "that makes large-scale government investments to make our economy more environmentally friendly," for example, resonated positively with 59 percent of German respondents, 71 percent in Poland, and 77 percent in Italy.

At the same time, the need to shore up economies could also lead to less environmental vigor, some fear. Around half of French and German respondents said they were worried that the "commitment to protecting the environment will slow down or stop," a concern shared by 75 percent of Italians.

Lefèvre said Italy was a good example of how the crisis has fostered an appetite for change. "Italians score higher when it comes to demanding conditionality for companies who receive public aid when compared to Germany, France, Poland and the Netherlands," he said, adding that 91 percent in the country would support "asking companies to stop using tax havens and pay their taxes at home."

Meanwhile, a third of Italian respondents said they were willing to pay higher income tax to help finance the economic recovery — a score exceeded only by the U.K. where 44 percent said they would make such a sacrifice.

Solidarity is not confined to national borders, however, with 48 percent of Dutch respondents supporting the idea of a European Reconstruction Fund and common debt, even though the government of the Netherlands is one of the so-called frugal four countries.

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