MaltaToday Survey | Young people most trustful of EU, but least knowledgeable

From awareness about the EU’s basic stats to its effectiveness, the latest MaltaToday survey asked people about Europe

Know who these three men are?
Know who these three men are?

Young people are the most trustful of EU institutions but have the least knowledge on who runs the Brussels show, a MaltaToday survey has found.

While 61.8% of people aged between 18 and 35 said they trusted EU institutions, they were the least likely to name the EU’s top brass.

The survey gives a snapshot of what people know about the EU and gauges their perception of the bloc’s effectiveness.

Nationalist voters are overwhelmingly more trustful of EU institutions than Labourites. While 64.7% of those who voted PN in the last election said they trusted the EU, the level of trust dropped to 41.2% among PL voters.

Only 40.3% of people could identify Jean Claude Juncker by name when asked who the president of the European Commission is.

But the former prime minister of Luxembourg had it much better than Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, and Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council. People had to recall the names without prompting.

Tajani’s name was recalled by 12.7% of people. The Italian’s performance is only marginally better than that of Tusk, who was identified by 9.9% of respondents.

In all three cases, the highest level of knowledge was exhibited by those aged 65 and over.

Juncker’s name was correctly mentioned by 52.4% of the elderly, as opposed to 29.3% of those aged between 18 and 35.

The elderly also posted the highest score when asked who the president of the European Parliament is. Tajani’s name was correctly mentioned by 18.3% of those aged 65 and over. Among the young, Tajani’s name was correctly recalled by a measly 6.9%.

The same pattern was observed for Tusk, the least known of the EU’s top brass. Tusk’s name was recalled successfully by 14.1% of the 65+ category and by 6.3% of those aged 18-35.

Just under a quarter of respondents could indicate the correct number of EU member states – there are 28 – and an insignificant 1.8% knew that 19 countries used the euro as their currency.

Guess who… the president is

President of the European Commission

Correct answer: Jean Claude Juncker

Juncker’s name was recalled by 40.3% of respondents, while 59.6% could name the person who heads the Brussels executive.

Men were evenly split between those who answered correctly (50.2%) and those who could not recall the name (49.8%). Fewer women could identify Juncker by name, with only 30.4% answering correctly.

The elderly were the only ones who in their absolute majority (52.4%) got Juncker’s name right. Among the young (18-35) Juncker’s name rang a bell with 29.3%, while among those aged between 36 and 50, 44.2% got it right.

PN voters edged out PL voters in correctly identifying who the European Commission president is. There were 48.6% of those who voted PN in 2017 who recalled Juncker’s name as opposed to 42.1% of PL voters.

President of the European Parliament

Correct answer: Antonio Tajani

Tajani may captain the only elected EU institution but for most people he is unknown, or rather not present enough to become a household name. Only 12.7% of people could say who the president of the European Parliament is, with a whopping 87.3% saying they did not know.

Men were more knowledgeable than women. Tajani’s name was recalled by 18.2% of male respondents as opposed to 7.1% of females.

The elderly turned out to be the more knowledgeable with 18.3% recalling his name, as opposed to 6.9% of those aged 18-35.

Tajani enjoyed marginally higher recognition among PN voters with 19% recalling his name correctly, as opposed to PL voters (13.3%).

President of the European Council

Correct answer: Donald Tusk

Tusk is the least known of the EU top brass with 9.9% of people identifying him by name as opposed to 90.1% who said they did not know.

Men were more knowledgeable than women, with 14% of males recalling Tusk’s name. On the opposite end, just 5.8% of females could recall the Pole by name.

The elderly again emerged as the more knowledgeable with 14.1% able to recall Tusk by name.

Among PN voters, 12.5% could recall Tusk’s name while 10.5% of PL voters knew who the European Council president was.

A question of trust

EU institutions were trusted by 49.6% of people while 13.2% showed no trust at all

Women were more trustful than men, having scored 52% and 47.3% respectively.

The young made up for their lack of knowledge on the EU by holding the strongest belief in the Brussels institutions. Among those aged 18-35 the level of trust reached 61.8%, as opposed to the next highest trust rating (48.9%) among the elderly.

Trust levels surpassed the 50% mark in Gozo (57.2%), the Northern region (54.6%) and Northern Harbour region (51.8%).

A clear distinction emerged between PN and PL voters’ trust levels in the EU. While PN voters overwhelmingly said they trusted EU institutions (64.7%), the number dropped to 41.2% among PL voters.

The EU has been the most effective in…

Knowing the extent of the EU’s remit and how far decisions taken in Brussels influence domestic policy is not easy to determine. But it appears that people do believe that ‘standardisation’ is one area in which the EU has excelled. People were asked to list one area in which they believed the EU has been most effective and ‘standardisation’ (and variations of the word) topped the list with 22.5%.

Second in line came ‘roads and infrastructure’ with 15.4% and the environment third with 13.1%. Unsurprisingly, ‘studying abroad’, made it to the top five, as did ‘human rights’. Each of these areas were mentioned by 10.6% of people. There may have been some who confused the EU with the European Court of Human Rights, a Council of Europe institution, when mentioning human rights, which is a common mistake.

The EU has been least effective in…

While establishing the areas in which the EU has been more successful gave a variation of answers, people had clearer ideas when identifying the failures.

Asked in which area the EU has been least effective, 73.3% of people identified immigration. This may not come as a surprise for a small frontier country like Malta that has been on the receiving end of migratory flows in the central Mediterranean. The next highest response, if one were to ignore those who could not identify a particular area, was the environment with 6.7%.

How many member states...

The number of EU member states

Correct answer: 28

The EU may be composed of 28 member states but getting that number right is a daunting task for the vast majority of people. Only 23.5% answered correctly, as opposed to 25.9% who indicated a number less than 28. A relative majority of 45% did not know what to answer.

Men were more aware of the size of the union, with 29.3% answering correctly. On the flipside, only 17.7% of women got it right.

The elderly were more attuned with reality than other age groups. The survey found that 39.4% of those aged 65+ knew that the union had 28 member states as opposed to 18% of those between 18 and 35.

PN voters were one step ahead of PL voters with 28.4% and 20.6% respectively knowing that 28 countries made up the EU.

The number of Eurozone countries

Correct answer: 19

Malta adopted the euro in 2008 and since then travelling across most of Europe has been made easier. But this has not contributed to a greater awareness of the countries that make up the Eurozone. Only 1.8% of people answered correctly when asked how many EU countries use the euro as their currency. Another 10% indicated a number less than 19, while 14.7%  went for a higher figure. The majority (73.6%) said they did not know.


The survey was carried out between Monday 1 October and Thursday 4 October. 601 respondents opted to complete the survey. Stratified random sampling based on gender, region and age was used to replicate the Maltese demographics. The estimated margin of error is 4.2% for a confidence interval of 95%.