Monday, May 19, 2014

Unhelpful Polling

Le Monde tries to divine Euroskeptical sentimen in France, but the poll seems to me poorly devised. What is one to make of a population of which 73% wish to remain in the euro but only 39% respond that the EU is a good thing? The answer is clearly that another 39% say that membership of the EU is "neither a good thing nor a bad thing." Indeed, I'd say that myself, and I'm staunchly pro-European. Membership is not a good or bad thing in itself; everything depends on what one does with the union. The point is not to emote toward the EU but to change it (to borrow a line from Karl Marx, suitably updated). Indeed, the Marx reference is apt, because the EU is now in a sense the world: the changes needed to make the EU work are the changes needed if France is to adapt to the profound alterations of the global economy. The crudely worded poll questions cannot get at the tumultuous mix of emotions that these alterations actually occasion in the minds of voters. The problem is that the polling instrument itself becomes a kind of propaganda tool, suggesting that there is an alternative to adaptation for which "EU membership" is a kind of surrogate. That is false: those who want nothing to do with the EU would, if their wishes became reality, simply be adapting to global change in their own suboptimal way.