World

In EU Election, Women Vote on Experience Over Party

by Ian T. Brown

European women want more representation in EU politics

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Amid the EU parliamentary elections now underway, Gallup reports the results from a Flash Eurobarometer poll on women's attitudes toward the European elections. Overall, Gallup finds that women in the 27 EU member states surveyed give more importance to candidates' experience on European issues than to political orientation, while men give roughly equal weight to both these factors.

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Other factors, such as age and gender of candidates, do not figure prominently for either women or men.

Roughly 375 million European voters are eligible to go to the polls between June 4 and 7 to elect 736 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to five-year terms. Of the current 785 MEPs, only 244 (about one-third) are women. The next two EP presidents, chosen from the leading political parties, are also set to be men.

The Flash Eurobarometer, commissioned by the European Parliament and European Commission, surveyed 27 EU member states in February 2009 and found men and women agreeing that men dominate European politics; large majorities (71% of men and 77% of women) are of this opinion. Further, women were more likely than men (52% vs. 45%) to agree that women in politics could lead to different decision making in general.

A majority of women in the EU countries surveyed want the proportion of women MEPs to be 40% or higher. Respondents were asked what they thought was the most effective way of increasing women's representation in the EP: European women were somewhat less likely than men to support direct measures that increase the number of women MEPs, such as mandatory quotas, and were more likely to prefer "encouraging" women to participate in politics.

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As of recently, the European Union has engaged in a massive PR campaign to encourage voter participation. A Eurobarometer study in January-February 2009 found that Europeans surveyed are now more aware of the elections, but neither interest in them nor likelihood of voting has increased. One issue for Europeans is the role the EP plays in their daily lives. The Flash Eurobarometer asked female respondents to rate the impact of EP activities on their lives. Overall, respondents said the EP most affected (had a high or moderate impact) the areas of education and women's rights.

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European women were less likely to say the EP had an impact on their family life than in other areas. The survey found that for the next EP to improve gender equality in family life, women would like it to prioritize policies that emphasize the importance of childcare. And in general, women want the next EP to prioritize policies that promote equal pay and others that would reduce violence and trafficking against women. The current EU election will soon show if women voters turned out in substantial numbers, and it will show how much they supported candidates with these policy platforms.

Read the full report online.

Survey Methods

The fieldwork for this Flash Eurobarometer "Women and European Parliamentary Elections" was conducted Feb. 9-13, 2009, and organized by Gallup Hungary. As to facilitate comparisons of electoral behavior in a general sense and toward the European Parliament elections in particular, and to allow a greater emphasis on women's views, the following sampling approach was adopted in each of the 27 EU member states: (1) a random sample of 1,000 women aged 18 years and older, and (2) a random sample of 500 citizens, men and women, aged 18 years and older. In total, more than 35,000 women and more than 5,500 men aged 18 years and older were interviewed in the different EU member states.

Although interviews were predominantly carried out by telephone via fixed lines, interviews were also conducted via mobile telephones and by face-to-face (F2F) interviews as appropriate. This methodology ensures that results are representative of the 27 EU member state population. In most of the countries where mobile telephone users could not easily be contacted by fixed-line telephones, a mixed-mode methodology was employed to ensure that these individuals were questioned; this was done either through face-to-face interviews or by including mobile telephones in the sampling frame. For this survey, there were mobile telephone interviews conducted in Austria, Finland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, and some F2F interviews in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania, Estonia, Bulgaria, and Poland.

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