Europe breathed a sigh of relief when Dutch voters, turning out in heavy numbers in mid-March, rejected the far-right candidacy of firebrand Geert Wilders.
The results were a blow to Mr. Wilders’ 11-year-old anti-immigrant, anti E.U. party, and possibly a warning for populist candidates such as the right-wing Alternative for Germany party and Marine Le Pen in France about their chances in elections this year.
While Germany’s elections will take place on September 24, Europe will now initially be looking to France where citizens choose a new president in two rounds of voting in April and May. Ms. Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National, wants France to leave the E.U. as well as the euro single-currency zone.
Will Frexit now follow Brexit? According to a new quarterly survey by the online polling firm YouGov conducted for Handelsblatt Global, there is reason to be optimistic.
The poll found that in France, 51 percent favor remaining a member of the European Union as opposed to 31 percent who would vote to leave if there was a referendum on the country’s membership. These figures are up significantly from the 45-35 split in YouGov’s poll three months earlier.
Germans backed the E.U. by an even wider margin of 63-21 percent. Denmark, Sweden and Finland all want to stay in the bloc by wide margins as well, while Norway – which is not an E.U. member and twice voted against joining the bloc – remains sharply opposed. A narrow margin in Britain – 44-42 percent – still prefer their country to leave the bloc, according to the poll.
Stephan Shakespeare, the head of YouGov, told Handelsblatt Global that things were moving in a positive direction for the E.U. “The doom and gloom has subsided a bit and there seems to be a little confidence coming back to the E.U. project,” Mr. Shakespeare explained.
There’s definitely a sense of relief in Europe, he added. “The fact that all the numbers are going in the right direction suggest that the negative effect of the Brexit vote has subsided.”
That doesn’t mean that voters believe Europe is on the right track. A clear majority in every surveyed country remains pessimistic about the future of the E.U. and consider it likely other countries will also be leaving the bloc in the next 10 years – even though these numbers too have slightly shifted in favor of the E.U. in comparison to last quarter.
An E.U. Convergence Index developed by YouGov for Handelsblatt Global rose from 40 to 41 across the seven countries – in other words, still pessimistic on the whole. The index, based on a series of questions surrounding support for E.U. membership, European identity and deeper integration, saw its sharpest jumps in Germany (up to 54 from 50) and France (up from 43 to 45).