I have heard from small country citizens critical of EU membership, the argument that in the EU, the important issues are all decided by the big countries, essentially arguing that the EU is just an enlargement of German and French interests — implying that when Germans and French are more pro-EU than Danes or Slovaks or Latvians, that this is because the EU acts in the interest of Germany and France and not of Denmark, Slovakia, or Latvia.

Notwithstanding whether this argument is correct or not; if this argument were popularly believed, one should expect that citizens of the large EU member states, Germany, France, United Kingdom, and Spain, are more pro-EU than the ones of small EU member states, such as Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, or Malta. Is there such a correlation?

  • (I think there is not)
    – gerrit
    Apr 16, 2019 at 13:45
  • It would be fairly simple to graph poll results on one axis against population on another; the most difficult part would probably be finding poll results that are both comparable across countries and reliable. Have you looked for them? (Also, the argument presumes that large states share the same interests and that small states share competing interests, which may be true for some issues but is probably not for all.)
    – phoog
    Apr 16, 2019 at 14:31
  • @phoog I started to check Eurobarometer but their visualisation to compare countries is poor.
    – gerrit
    Apr 16, 2019 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


Back when the EU was small it's easy to see at a glance that the opposite was the case, i.e. the small countries were more satisfied with membership. Germany, France, and the UK were all below the Union-wide satisfaction average in 2002, although Germany was closest to the average. With the exception of Italy and Spain the most satisfied countries were all small. However even back then there were some discontents among the smaller countries as well: Finland, Austria, and Sweden.

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Here's the raw data on same question asked more recently.

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There are some large changes relative to the 2002 poll, e.g. Italy stands out among the miscontents now and Germany is now way above average in terms of membership-satisfaction. I've also noticed they've asked a new question now, whether people think their voice counts. I can already tell that some small countries (e.g. Estonia) are both happy being in the EU and they think that their voice doesn't count!

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Just using the membership...good-thing data, the answer is still no; there's still a slight downward trend for the larger countries.

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(Population data for 2017 from Wikipedia, in millions.)

The small countries are all over the place in terms of membership-satisfaction. Since the population isn't normally distributed by country, here's the same graph with log(pop) axis, so it's easier to see the small countries

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Here's how make your hypothesis a little more true: Brexit

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However, in log(pop) terms there's no change in the sign of the slope after Brexit (graph omitted).

Also, since the 95% confidence zone (dark grey area) can swing both ways in all the linear pop graphs, no real conclusion can be drawn, other than the fact that the vagaries of the satisfaction in the few large countries largely influence the (upward or downward) slope of the trendline. The [lack of] confidence observation even holds for the log(pop) graphs.

If somebody wants the raw data to play some more, here it is:

   country sat    pop
1       LU  85  0.591
2       IE  81  4.784
3       DE  79 82.522
4       NL  79 17.082
5       DK  76  5.749
6       MT  74  0.460
7       PL  70 37.973
8       EE  69  1.316
9       ES  68 46.529
10      SE  68  9.995
11      BE  67 11.352
12      LT  67  2.848
13      PT  65 10.310
14      FI  61  5.503
15      HU  61  9.798
16      RO  59 19.644
17      SI  58  2.066
18      FR  55 66.989
19      BG  54  7.102
20      LV  52  1.950
21      CY  52  0.855
22      SK  50  5.435
23      UK  47 65.808
24      AT  45  8.773
25      EL  45 10.768
26      IT  39 60.589
27      HR  36  4.154
28      CZ  34 10.579

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