Expert Comment: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and European public opinion
The Russian invasion of Ukraine had major consequences for Europe, but we know less about whether and how it has altered European public opinion. Our recent research, however, shows the invasion has increased support for democracy, redistribution and freedom, as well as improving views of immigration and Europe.
By Margaryta Klymak, a fellow and tutor in Economics at Somerville College, and Dr Tim Vlandas, from Oxford's Department of Social Policy and Intervention,
Since 24 February 2022, Russia has been waging a full-scale war against Ukraine. This attack has led to numerous casualties in Ukraine, likely in the tens of thousands, including many children. It has been denounced by European institutions, by NATO, and by the United Nations.
It has also destroyed civilian infrastructure across the country, including key energy and water utilities, schools and hospitals. Millions have fled Ukraine, often to Europe where nearly 7.9 million refugees have found refuge.
The Russian invasion led to higher trust in politicians and political parties
While European governments have been at the forefront of humanitarian and military support to Ukraine, we know less about whether and how public opinion in Europe has been affected by the Russian invasion. In a recent research, we focus on the effect of the invasion on the attitudes and views about institutions, democracy, authoritarianism, immigration, Europe, and solidarity.
Our analyses uncover significant effects of the Russian invasion on trust, democratic and redistribution attitudes. Results from our recent Nuffield College working paper suggest the Russian invasion led to higher trust in politicians and political parties but had no effect on trust in the United Nations or the European Parliament.
Satisfaction with democracy and valuing freedom was higher for respondents after the war began
Moreover, in other research we show satisfaction with democracy and valuing freedom was higher for respondents after the war began. Similarly, opposition to redistribution, favourable views of strong leaders and attachment to traditions all fell.
In addition, the invasion led to more positive views of the EU: support for leaving the EU decreased after the invasion, while respondents became more supportive of further European unification. Finally, Russia’s invasion also improved perceptions of immigration’s consequences for host countries’ economies, quality of life and culture.
Overall, Russia’s war against Ukraine has led to higher support for democracy, redistribution and freedom, more trust in politics, and more positive views of immigration and Europe. Public opinion in Europe in the longer run will be essential for European governments to continue supporting Ukraine and its citizens.
Overall, Russia’s war against Ukraine has led to higher support for democracy, redistribution and freedom, more trust in politics, and more positive views of immigration and Europe
We analysed the latest wave of the European Social Survey, which chooses respondents and their interview dates in advance and includes a wide range of questions. Crucially, for our purpose, the ESS never alters the agreed interview dates in reaction to events.
Our analysis examines answers by respondents interviewed just prior (control group) and just after (treatment group) the start of the Russian invasion. Eight countries in the ESS have survey fieldwork that overlapped with the Russian invasion, i.e. includes respondents both before and after 24 February 2022: Italy, Greece, Portugal, Norway, Switzerland, Montenegro, North Macedonia and the Netherlands