Survey: The EU Should Take Greater Responsibility for Its Own Defense

Support for NATO has remained high throughout the first year of membership:
83 percent of Finns would now vote in favor of membership. Support for EU membership is clearly lower (74%) and divides the parties’ voters into two different camps.

The results are revealed in the recent report titled "From a peace project to a security union: Finns' expectations for security and defense policy in the 2024 European Parliament elections". The report is part of the “Dynamic Support for Security and Defense Policy (NATOpoll)” research project led by the University of Helsinki, where the same respondents are interviewed every six months. 

Citizens feel that NATO membership has significantly increased Finland’s security. Despite the tight economic situation, Finns are ready to pay the full price for NATO membership, i.e., at least the two percent of GDP required by NATO. The attitude towards nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s deterrence has not changed from the situation six months ago, even though Finland’s nuclear weapons policy was strongly featured in the presidential elections held at the beginning of the year.

Citizens’ security concerns have grown, but the EU’s ability to react is trusted. Different things are expected from the EU. Many Finns think of the EU as a community of values that defends liberal democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. However, notions of the union as a promoter of solidarity, regional equality, unity between member states, and as a preventer of discrimination against individuals and groups are shared by significantly more citizens.

The EU’s role as a producer of collective security and common defense is recognized, but the details of the EU’s security and defense policy are polarizing in some domains. There is, however, a broad consensus that the EU must take stronger responsibility for its own defense. This sentiment has been influenced by the events of fall 2024.

The forthcoming 2024 presidential elections in the United States, potentially featuring the re-election of Donald Trump, have had a significant influence, according to the report.

Finland stands on solid ground

Finnish support for Ukraine is strong and, combined with European arms production, justifies increasing Finland's membership fee from about one percent of its GDP. Nearly half of the Finns (46%) would endorse taking on a larger share of the EU's collective debt for this cause. Joint debt has emerged as a pivotal issue in the European elections within Finland. Furthermore, there is a willingness among Finns to expand the use of qualified majority voting among EU member states.

Regarding threat perceptions, citizens are more concerned with information warfare and cyberattacks rather than a direct armed assault on Finland. Issues such as international crime and uncontrolled migration also cause concern. Notably, in relation to crime and migration, the EU is perceived as a capable provider of solutions.

Supporters of various parties and candidates in European elections hold divergent views on numerous EU foreign and security policy issues.

The report also contrasts the perspectives of citizens and European election candidates utilizing Yle's voting advice application. There is marginal divergence between the views of candidates and survey respondents regarding whether EU countries should dispatch troops to support Ukraine if necessary, given an imminent Ukrainian defeat. Conversely, this issue significantly polarizes both groups: approximately half of the candidates and respondents support, whilst the other half opposes, the deployment of troops from EU countries. More so than the citizens, the candidates view EU enlargement as beneficial for the current member states. Voters show a more favorable attitude than the candidates towards Ukraine's EU membership, the repatriation of refugees, and the prohibition of TikTok in Europe.

The European elections this summer and the composition of the forthcoming commission will be critical in determining the intensity and methods through which the transition from a peace project to a security union might be advanced in the future, notes project leader, Adjunct Professor of Political Science Hanna Wass from the University of Helsinki. Adjunct Professor S.M. Amadae, co-leader of the project, observes that the European Union’s current focus on defence cooperation aligns with the historical tradition of collaboration among EU and NATO member states.

The recently issued report “From a peace project to a security union: Finns’ expectations of security and defence policy in the 2024 European Parliament elections” is based on survey data designed by the NATOpoll research project, and copliled by Taloustutkimus from 18 to 24 April 2024. The survey, including 1,654 Finnish respondents aged 17-79, was collected via Taloustutkimus’ permanent internet panel exclusively among those who participated in the second survey round of data collections in November 2023. The response rate was 57 percent from the first round and 81 percent from the second round. The respondents were weighted to match the initial round in terms of age, gender, and residence. The margin of error is approximately ±2.6 percentage points. This new report follows two previous reports.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki, the University of Tampere, the University of Turku, Åbo Akademi and the Institute for Foreign Affairs are involved in the project financed by the Kone Foundation.

For additional information contact:

Adj. Prof. Hanna Wass –
Adj. Prof. S.M. Amadae –