Survey finds right-wing surge in EU election results driven by similar concerns to US voters

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The right-wing surge in the European Union elections was driven by most of the same matters that concern voters in the United States, a survey found.

“Improving the economy and reducing inflation” was the No. 1 issue for European voters, according to the polling platform Focaldata, shared with Reuters. This was followed by “international conflict and war” and “immigration and asylum-seekers.”

Supporters of the French right-wing National Rally react at the party election night headquarters on Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

In fourth place came “reducing inequality,” followed by “acting on climate change.” The latter two topics tend to be strengths of left-wing and green parties, while the top three usually favor the Right.

The poll surveyed 6,000 people across the EU’s five most populous countries: Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Poland, in addition to Sweden.

The impressive showing of the Right brought back memories of 2016, when the successful Brexit vote served as a precursor to former President Donald Trump’s victory. As in the 2016 U.S. election, the Brexit vote was driven significantly by the topic of immigration.

The first part of the pattern has recreated itself this year, with the successful showing of the Right being driven by concerns over the economy and immigration. Those matters are two that Trump consistently outperforms President Joe Biden on in the polls.

The role of foreign conflicts may also play a deciding role in both elections. Fatigue over the war in Ukraine helped draw a surge from parties further to the right, including the Alternative for Germany and French National Rally, which expressed more skepticism over aid to Ukraine. While the war in Ukraine may play some role in the U.S. election, the Israel-Hamas war has emerged as much more prominent, splitting two major Democratic voting blocs. Many Muslim and Arab Americans have floated the possibility of withholding their votes for Biden in response to his handling of the conflict.

The EU election has a different structure from that of the U.S. Each country gets a designated number of seats, and each political bloc is awarded the percentage of seats it wins in each country. Right-wing parties were the clear winners in the latest election, winning about a quarter of the 720 total seats — their best showing yet. Conservative Christian Democrats still hold the largest number of seats.

Responses also varied by country — Germans, who control the highest number of seats at 96, ranked “immigration and asylum-seekers” as their No. 1 concern, followed by wars and the economy. The decision of then-Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 to accept the largest number of Middle Eastern refugees in Europe created a backlash. The right-wing AFD has been described as the furthest right mainstream party in Europe, with the ruling left-wing coalition openly floating the idea of outright banning the party.

Alice Weidel, center, and Tino Chrupalla, center right, both AFD federal chairmen, cheer at the AFD party headquarters during the forecast for the European elections in Berlin on Sunday, June 9, 2024. (Joerg Carstensen/dpa via AP)

The AFD won the second-largest number of seats in the latest EU election, beating every party in German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s governing coalition. In direct contrast to U.S. voting trends, however, the surge for the right-wing parties was driven significantly by the youth demographic.

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The French National Rally emerged as perhaps the biggest victors of the election, winning over twice the share of the vote of French President Emmanuel Macron’s party. Every department aside from Paris voted for the National Rally. Macron dissolved parliament and called a new snap election in response.

The right-wing parties also gained seats in Austria, Cyprus, Greece, and the Netherlands. The green parties suffered the most, setting up a possible change in the EU’s climate policies.